TOKYO, June 7 (Xinhua) -- A committee of the upper house of Japan's parliament on Wednesday passed a bill to allow Japan's Emperor Akihito to step down and pass his duties over to Crown Prince Naruhito.
The law designed specifically for Emperor Akihito is due to be enacted at an upper house plenary session this Friday, bringing Japan one step closer to its first imperial abdication in around 200 years.
A special resolution was adopted by the committee and attached to the bill on Friday, and while non binding, the resolution says the government will "consider various issues to secure stable imperial succession, including creating female branches."
The bill was written with only the current emperor in mind, as the government apparently did not want to set a precedent for future emperors.
The current Imperial House Law only allows posthumous succession to the Chrysanthemum Throne and has no clauses for emperors abdicating.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, the government's top spokesperson, however, who has been chairing parliamentary deliberations over the bill, said previously that the bill could indeed set a precedent for abdications by future emperors.
He also said on Wednesday that the government will now study the declining numbers of imperial family members and how their duties should be carried out keeping in mind the public's expectations.
Debate is now expected to ensue in parliament regarding the recognition of the branches of female members of the imperial family who marry commoners.
The abdication bill which cleared the lower house last week states that the public understand and sympathize with the wishes of the Emperor and says that his abdication should come within 3 years of the announcement of the law.
In terms of timing for Emperor Akihito's abdication, the government has been considering December 2018 as the possible timing for the move, as this is when the emperor will turn 85 years old.
The nation's era name (gengo) which lasts for as long as the emperor is on the throne, will change at the beginning of 2019.
Last August, Emperor Akihito made a rare public televised address, during which he suggested he wanted to step down because his advancing age and weakening health were making it difficult for him to carry out his official duties to the best of his ability.