Nikkei Asian Review: Feeling his years, Japan’s emperor has been looking to bow out
Although his enthusiasm for public appearances has not waned, at age 82, Japan’s emperor has apparently let on that he hopes to cede his throne while his health lasts.
Emperor Akihito has undergone two major surgeries in a little over a decade. Following a 2003 operation to treat prostate cancer, he resumed public duties after a month. But his prostate problems recurred, so he began hormonal therapy the following year, complemented by a fitness regimen to guard against the risk of bone loss associated with these treatments.
In 2011, the emperor was diagnosed with hardening and narrowing of the arteries, which led to a four-hour bypass surgery in February of the following year. Never before had a Japanese emperor undergone such a serious operation. Yet a week after being discharged from the hospital, he and Empress Michiko attended a memorial service for victims of the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
The emperor has visited communities struck by other quakes since then, most recently in southwestern Japan in April, and traveled overseas almost every year to honor World War II victims on foreign battlefields. If his surgeries have taken a toll on his energy, it is not apparent in the vigor with which he applies himself to his public appearances.