Learn New Words FAST with this Lesson’s Vocab Review List

Get this lesson’s key vocab, their translations and pronunciations. Sign up for your Free Lifetime Account Now and get 7 Days of Premium Access including this feature.

Or sign up using Facebook
Already a Member?

Lesson Transcript

Hello, and welcome to the Culture Class: News and Current Events in Japan, Season 1 - Lesson 3, Abdication of the Emperor.
In August 2016, Emperor Akihito announced his intention to abdicate. In this lesson, we'll learn about this news story.

Lesson focus

In the Constitution of Japan, the Emperor’s role is defined as the figurehead of Japan and the Japanese people and states that he does not participate in government affairs.
The imperial throne is hereditary, and the line of succession is prescribed based on the Imperial Household Law.
The imperial throne has been in place for approximately 1,500 years, and is inherited by members of the imperial family.
The imperial family is believed to be descended from God and to be symbols of the national faith.
Therefore, it was once believed that the family could never be regarded as a target to be defeated while the dynasties which rose on the other continents have been defeated in history.
This resulted in continuous, repeated successions of the throne by the same family, which has not been seen anywhere else in the world.
However, after the Second World War, a new constitution was enacted, and in a great historic transformation, the Emperor’s role shifted from the position of head of state, which holds sovereignty, to the position of figurehead.
In other words, unlike his predecessor Emperor Showa, the current Emperor has been a symbolic emperor since the time of his coronation.
This position is unprecedented in the history of the imperial family and is one which the current Emperor has had to explore and define himself.
In August 2016, the Emperor announced his intention to abdicate.
These words, also known as the “Emperor’s speech in the Heisei era,” impressed a great number of people, and demonstrated once again the responsibilities of a symbolic emperor and how he must respect the Constitution of Japan.
It seems that most people are generally supportive of an abdication, however in reality this will not be so easy to achieve.
This is because abdication has not been prescribed in the Imperial Household Law as a means for succession of the throne.
The Emperor, in his announcement, encouraged the amendment of the law, and this has been interpreted as the Emperor getting involved in national politics.
Although many people are sympathetic towards the Emperor, this is something that the current Cabinet cannot ignore.
Although a meeting of experts has taken place, opinion is split as to whether to make this a permanent amendment to the Imperial Household Law or to prescribe it temporarily under a special measures law.
There are many legal inconsistencies and challenges that must be overcome.


Those are the key facts about the abdication of the Emperor.
If you want to find the related Japanese keywords, make sure to check out the lesson notes.
Okay, that’s all for this lesson. Thank you for listening everyone, and keep listening for more of the most talked about news stories in Japan!