The Twelfth Annual Marius Jansen Memorial Lecture: The Politics of the Japanese Emperor’s Abdication
This presentation addresses the debate on constitutional monarchy that has arisen as a consequence of the emperor of Japan announcing his wish to retire. Although over half of all past emperors have abdicated, two hundred years have elapsed since the last abdication. While public opinion is overwhelmingly positive, the postwar Imperial Household Code governing the monarchy contains no provision on abdication. Thus, a legal determination on the permissibility of abdication was required. The ensuing political drama exposed a range of divergent views on constitutional monarchy and provided a bully pulpit for retrogressive supporters of the ruling political party to rebuke the emperor for his way of enacting the postwar constitution’s “symbol monarchy.” Retrogressionists reject the “symbol monarchy” and revert towards the pre-surrender conception of the emperor as a divine figure whose prayers and rituals for his ancestral gods guarantee the nation’s prosperity. On the other side stand a range of views largely favoring the symbol monarchy.