According to Japanese broadcaster NHK Emperor Akihito has expressed a desire to abdicate in the near future, a move that would require the revision of laws governing the Imperial family.

The report, which has been denied by Imperial Palace spokesman Shinichiro Yamamoto, stated that Akihito, 82, believes he is too old to continue performing official duties to the fullest and wishes to pass the crown on to his eldest son, 56 year old Crown Prince Naruhito.

If Emperor Akihito is to step down he would become the first emperor to do so since Emperor Kokaku in 1817, though the timing of the handover remains unclear.

Akihito succeeded his father, Emperor Hirohito in 1989 becoming the 125th holder of the Chrysanthemum Throne, the world’s oldest hereditary monarchy. The first Japanese monarch in living memory to visit China, he acknowledged his ancestral blood ties to Korea in the build up to the 2002 World Cup. Long seen as a pacifist leader he has repeatedly expressed remorse for Japanese aggression in the early part of the twentieth century.

At a ceremony to mark the ending of the second world war he said, “Looking back at the past, together with deep remorse over the war, I pray that this tragedy of war will not be repeated and together with the people express my deep condolences for those who fell in battle and in the ravages of war.”

In 2003 he had surgery for prostate cancer and had a heart bypass four years ago.

Image: Sebra /