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Innovation needs to be a Reiwa goal

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BEPPU, OITA PREF. - Emperor Akihito will abdicate on April 30 and his son, Crown Prince Naruhito, will ascend the throne on May 1, with the Imperial era name changing from Heisei to Reiwa. Such an era name system — in which only one name is assigned for the whole period of an emperor’s reign — was introduced by the Hongwu emperor of China’s Ming Dynasty when he assumed the throne in 1368. Although era names were once widely used in East Asia, Japan is now the only country to retain the system.

What kind of an era was Heisei in Japan? As the 30-year period is approaching its end, let me discuss two major points. The first is the issue of the emperor system.

As a law student at university, I majored in the Constitution. What was the hardest to understand was the status of the emperor as provided for by the Constitution. Article 1 says, “The Emperor shall be the symbol of the State and of the unity of the People, deriving his position from the will of the people with whom resides sovereign power.” Although I could understand the literal meaning of this provision, I could not form a concrete image of what is indeed the status and roles of an emperor.

But looking at the speech and behavior of the current Emperor and Empress over the past 30 years, characterized by their efforts to be on the side of people facing great difficulties, especially in consoling and encouraging people who have suffered from serious natural disasters, I came to understand the meaning of the emperor as the “symbol.” Emperor Akihito is the first to have spent his entire reign under the current Constitution. I believe that together with Empress Michiko, the Emperor has lived and behaved as the symbol of the state and the unity of the people with all his heart, mind and strength.

The Emperor, who thus has devoted all of his energy to fulfilling his constitutional role, expressed his desire to abdicate in a video message in 2016. Various opinion polls showed that nearly 90 percent of respondents supported his extraordinary move. Subsequently, the government decided on special........

© The Japan Times