TOKYO (AP) — Japan's Prince Hisahito turned 10 on Tuesday amid national attention over the future of the Japanese monarchy after Emperor Akihito, his grandfather, indicated a wish to abdicate.
Akihito, 82, in a rare public address last month, expressed concern about fulfilling official duties as he ages, suggesting he would like to abdicate.
Hisahito, a fourth-grader who enjoys playing with bugs and helping rice-growing at a palace farm, is third in line to the chrysanthemum throne. His father Prince Akishino, 50, is second after his brother Crown Prince Naruhito, 56.
The government is reportedly considering enacting a special law allowing Akihito's abdication that would not be applicable to his successors, although discussions over revising the Imperial House Law could reopen debate over the divisive issue of whether to allow female emperors.
The abdication issue renewed concerns about aging and shortage of successors in the Imperial family — a 2000-year-old monarchy — which reflects the overall concern in Japan's declining population and rapid aging.
Akihito and his wife Michiko have four grandchildren but only Hisahito is eligible to the throne under Japan's male-only succession system. The three granddaughters — Naruhito's daughter Aiko and Hisahito's two sisters — will lose royal status when they marry.
Current law, set in 1947, is largely inherited from a 19th-century constitution that banned abdication as a potential risk to political stability.
An earlier government panel discussion, launched out of concern about the lack of male offspring, endorsed allowing female emperors, but that thinking was shelved when Hisahito was born in 2006.