A panel set up by the Japanese government to discuss the potential abdication of Emperor Akihito is likely to hold its first session Oct 17, government sources said Saturday, after the 82-year-old emperor expressed his readiness in August to vacate the throne.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will join the first meeting of the panel of six experts, they said. The first session is likely to focus on how to proceed with discussions, and in the second and later sessions the panel is likely to hear from experts on relevant historical considerations, the Constitution and the imperial system, they said.
The panel does not include specialists on the history of the Imperial family or on matters related to the Imperial House Law.
The panel was established in late September in response to a rare video message from the emperor to the public on Aug 8 in which he voiced concern that he could one day become unable to fulfill his role as the symbol of the state because of his advanced age.
The remarks sparked a debate over the current Imperial House Law, which lacks a provision regarding abdication, with only posthumous succession effectively allowed.
Coupled with working on a report on how to reduce the public duties of the emperor, the panel members are expected to focus on discussions about possible amendments of the current law or creation of a special abdication law that would be effective only for Emperor Akihito.
After the panel finalizes the report, the leaders of both houses of the Diet will hear opinions from representatives from the ruling and opposition parties before beginning legal procedures.
The panel is expected to be chaired by Takashi Imai, honorary chairman of the Japan Business Federation.
The five other members are: Takashi Mikuriya, a political scientist and professor emeritus at the University of Tokyo; Junko Obata, an administrative law scholar and professor at the law school of Sophia University; Atsushi Seike, president of Keio University and an economist versed in employment issues; Midori Miyazaki, professor at Chiba University of Commerce and a former TV newscaster; and Masayuki Yamauchi, professor emeritus at the University of Tokyo and Islamic studies researcher.