According to an article of The Economist (“Banyan/ The shrinking monarchy”, May 27, 2017), “the cabinet of Shinzo Abe, the prime minister, approved a bill last week [May 19, 2017] to allow for the emperor’s abdication” and “the Diet is likely to pass an abdication law next month [June 2017]”.

Under the new law His Imperial Majesty Emperor Akihito is thought to abdicate in late 2018 with dignity (though He “is said to have been offended when conservative scholars last year [in 2016] said he should just stick to praying and carrying out Shinto rituals” in the pre-drafting hearings for the “abdication” law), unlike the hapless infantile Emperor Chûkyô, who was deposed ignominiously by rampant savage samurai subjects nearly eight hundred years ago. (On the other hand, though the recalcitrant barons had gone so far as to force King John to sign the Magna Carta in 1215, the English subjects were lenient enough to let him remain king. In the 13th century, at least, the Japanese may have been more republican than the English. Later, in 1688/89 even the Convention Parliament of England dared not depose King James II, but found instead the Throne already vacated.(...whereas the said late King James the Second haveing Abdicated the Government and the Throne thereby Vacant...))

Unlike in Japan, where “Mr. Abe, an arch-conservative himself on matters of the imperial family”, is now the Prime Minister, in this age of republicanism monarchies elsewhere may be being threatened by silent revolutions proceeding slowly with such innocent-looking legislations as shown below.  


Special Act to the Royal House Law for the King’s Retirement, etc.


Article 1

Considering that having performed sincerely as the Symbol of the State and of the unity of the people such official activities as visits to various parts of the country and consolation of those affected by disasters as well as the acts provided for in the Constitution in matters of state for the very long period of nearly thirty years since His Ascension to the Royal Throne on the first day of His Reign and attained more than eighty years of high age, His Majesty King is now deeply concerned that it should become difficult for Him to continue to perform such activities by Himself as King;

Considering on the other hand that the Good People of this country are adoring deeply His Majesty King, who has sincerely performed such activities mentioned above into such high age, understanding such feelings of His Majesty King as mentioned above, and sympathizing with such feelings;

And considering that the His Highness Crown Prince, the Royal Heir, has attained nearly sixty years of age and has been performing diligently such official activities as the acts provided for in the Constitution in matters of state as Delegate of His Majesty King for long time by now;

We [, the representatives of the Good People of this country in the National Convention assembled,] do now ordain and establish this Act [without the Sanction by His Majesty King Himself] to provide for the realization of His Majesty King’s retirement from the Throne and of the Enthronement of the Royal Heir, as an exception of the existing provisions of the Royal House Law, and for supplementary arrangements, including those concerning His Majesty King’s status after the retirement.


Article 2

When the first day of the enforcement of this Act has passed, the King shall be made [by this Act] to have retired from the Throne [with no particular Royal Will to have been expressed] and the Royal Heir shall be made to have ascended to the Throne immediately.




Supplementary Article 1

This Act shall come into force within three years from the day of its promulgation, with the date of enforcement to be determined by a Cabinet Order [, the enactment of which does not require any Sanction by His Majesty King]. (…)

When the Cabinet Order of the precedent paragraph is to be enacted, the Prime Minister must consult beforehand opinions of the Royal House Council [, of which His Majesty King is not a member].




Is the above-provided king’s retirement a case of abdication or deposition (dethronement)?

Though said to be concerned with his very old age and accompanying fragility, the king does not seem to have expressed explicitly his will to abdicate. His ministers and the representatives of the people, on their part, do not seem to consider the will of the king essential. Isn’t an abdication to be based on the clearly-expressed will of the monarch to do so? When the will of the people makes the royal throne vacant through the form of democratic legislation, with the very will of the monarch playing no formal role, shouldn't it be called a dethronement?

If it is a case of abdication, the above law can be called monarchist. (Being a human being himself, a monarch should be allowed to abdicate when circumstances require.) If deposition (dethronement), it is rashly and rudely republican.

A rudimentary non-native user of English, however, I cannot decide by myself by which term the above-shown royal retirement act should be titled: an “abdication” law or a “deposition” law.

Le Roi est déposé,

Vive le Roi!

Vive la République! 


Masatoshi Saitoh, attorney at law

Taishi-Wakaba Law Office

2nd floor, Shibuya 3-chome Square Building,

5-16, Shibuya 3-chome, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo. 150-0002