This week, Japan's Emperor Akihito offered his formal abdication to the Japanese people and delivered his last public address as emperor.
He is the first Japanese monarch to stand down in more than 200 years and came to the decision to abdicate after concluding that he was unable to serve the people of Japan in his role ‘because of his age and declining health’.
Crown Prince Naruhito ascended the throne yesterday.
In his final speech of the current ‘Heisei era’, the BBC reports that the outgoing Emperor said he, ’…wished Japan and the world peace and prosperity’ saying:
’…Along with the empress consort, I hope from my heart the Reiwa era will be peaceful and fruitful, and I hereby pray for the well-being and happiness of our country and people of the world.’
I wish the outgoing Emperor Akihhito a peaceful retirement and welcome the new Emperor Akihhito.
The Emperor in Japan holds no political power but serves as a national figurehead.
After graduating with a degree in history from Tokyo's Gakushuin University, the new Emperor, whilst still a prince, studied at Oxford University's Merton College from 1983 to 1985 and has maintained a keen interest in his academic specialisms ever since.
The name of the new imperial era, Reiwa, meaning ’beautiful harmony’, was taken from Japan's oldest poetry anthology, Manyoshu.
However, while we are invoking poetry, when it comes to Japan’s international reputation, one must ask how long will the issue of whaling continue to hang like an ‘albatross around the neck’ of Japan’s diplomats?
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is reported to have addressed the emperor at the abdication ceremony, saying: ‘While keeping in our hearts the path that the emperor has walked, we will make utmost efforts to create a bright future for a proud Japan that is full of peace and hope.’
This is the same Prime Minister Shinzo Abe who has used the issue of whaling as part of his nationalistic agenda to stir up anti-western feeling in trying to pursue his jingoistic political programme.
At a time when Japan under the new outwardly looking emperor will be seeking to engage with other nations, Prime Minister Abe is dragging Japan out from under the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) with respect to marine issues, and out of membership of international agreements such as the International Whaling Commission (IWC). Both measures seek to undermine the cooperative conservation work of the international community by setting up Japan as a commercial whaler.
These are not the actions of a 21st-century state that seeks a voice at the highest international table, but are the actions of a provincial, antiquated, nationalistic self-focused leader who is looking to the past and not the ‘…bright future for a proud Japan that is full of peace and hope’ that the outgoing and new emperor aspire to.
I sincerely hope that the new emperor can bring some of his scientific, and more outwardly looking, perspective to help the people of Japan to understand the need for Japan to end whaling once and for all.
Will you help?
We will be scrutinising Japan's actions. Like a game of chess, we will try to counter their every move. To do this, we need your help.