The Japanese have acknowledged that their emperor is not a god and he has been stripped of all political power, but the nation still views its monarch as so central to the sense of identity that he is not permitted to resign.
Now, Emperor Akihito is suggesting that his people let him retire.
He is 82 years old. He has had cancer. He has had surgery.
So, in a uniquely Japanese moment on Monday, he went on television to hint at his desire for Parliament to change the law so he can give the job to his son.
But it is freighted. The emperor represents a postwar Japan that is committed to pacifism. The current government wants to loosen the reins on the military, and the prime minister, Shinzo Abe, is politically powerful. If Emperor Akihito steps down, will Japan lose a check on the government’s drive to rewrite the past, to discard its lessons and taboos?
Will his son, Crown Prince Naruhito, also a pacifist, have the standing of his father? Read more at The NY Times.