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Prince Mikasa backed emperor's abdication clause in postwar Imperial House Law

Prince Mikasa, who died Oct. 27 at age 100, had argued in 1946 for a clause allowing the Japanese emperor's abdication under a postwar Imperial House Law. The Prince, who was the youngest brother of Emperor Hirohito, posthumously known as Emperor Showa, and uncle of Emperor Akihito, spelled out his view in a written opinion on a new Constitution and revision of the Imperial House Law.

The government of then Prime Minister Shigeru Yoshida set up an advisory panel called an "extraordinary legislation study group." The panel came up with guidelines in favor of following the old Imperial House Law, adopted during the Meiji era, without providing such a clause. Prince Mikasa was said to have objected to the guidelines.

In his written opinion, Prince Mikasa said that if imperial succession happened only upon the emperor's death, it could run counter to the spirit of the new Constitution stipulating that ''No person shall be held in bondage of any kind'' (Article 18). When the Cabinet and the emperor differ over serious issues, abdication as a last resort should rest with the emperor, he argued, adding failure to grant abdication would make the emperor an iron chained-slave of the Cabinet.

But the government at the time did not go along with the Prince's opinion. The government explained that to stabilize the emperor's status it would not permit abdication. It was also understood to be against abdication to prevent Emperor Hirohito's abdication amid calls for him to face responsibility over the war.

During parliamentary deliberations, then State Minister Tokujiro Kanamori answered that abdication based on the emperor's sole opinion was not compatible with Japanese people's beliefs.

The postwar Imperial House Law was approved by the House of Representatives and the then House of Peers, and came into effect on May 3, 1947, along with the new Constitution.

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