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Gov't mulls no national holiday for Emperor Akihito's birthday after abdication

The government is pondering making Emperor Akihito's birthday on Dec. 23, which is a national holiday, a regular day after he retires on April 30, 2019, at least for the time being, out of concern that having both birthdays of the retired and new emperor as holidays could be seen as "duality of power."

In the special legislation to allow Emperor Akihito to abdicate, revisions to parts of the Act on National Holidays are included, which state that the national holiday for the emperor's birthday, which currently falls on Dec. 23, will be moved to Feb. 23, Crown Prince Naruhito's birthday, when he succeeds to the Imperial Throne. At the same time, the revisions do not touch on what will happen to Emperor Akihito's birthday as a national holiday after he steps down. As a result, starting from 2019, Dec. 23 will be a regular business day or weekend day.

The birthdays of Emperor Mutsuhito, known posthumously as Emperor Meiji, and Emperor Hirohito, posthumously known as Emperor Showa, are set as national holidays as Culture Day (Nov. 3) and Showa Day (April 29), respectively, but the finalized policy regarding the birthday of Emperor Akihito and the Dec. 23 national holiday has not been formed.

In the Heian period between the eighth and 12th centuries, as well as in other times in Japan's history, "joko," or retired emperors, retained power after abdications. Due to such a historical background, the current government has thus far put its efforts into avoiding duality of power in the process of forming the special law by stating that all of Emperor Akihito's official duties will be handed over to the new emperor.

A source close to the government says making the retired emperor's birthday a national holiday could be seen as empowering his title, adding that there could be privately organized events to express gratitude to the retired emperor if his birthday remained as a national holiday. The source stated, "Making his birthday a holiday should be avoided at least while he maintains his 'joko' title."

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