Japan's Emperor Akihito was candid with his nation as he discussed his concerns regarding his health and ability to rule in a rare TV address. The revered ruler, who seems to be hinting at his desire to stand down, strongly indicated his desire to hand over his duties at age 82 despite never using the word abdicate during the 10-minute address.
"When I consider that my fitness level is gradually declining, I am worried that it may become difficult for me to carry out my duties as the symbol of the state with my whole being, as I have done until now," he said. "There are times when I feel various constraints, such as in my physical fitness."
Emperor Akihito, who has had heart surgery and been treated for prostate cancer, has been on the throne since the death of his father, Hirohito, in 1989. If he were to abdicate, it would be the first time a Japanese emperor has stepped down since Emperor Kokaku in 1817.
Following the broadcast, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said the government would take the remarks "seriously" and see what could be done. Currently, abdication is not mentioned under existing laws and parliament would need to approve changes for the emperor to stand down.
Next in line to the Japanese throne is Akihito's son, Crown Prince Naruhito, 56. According to Japan's Imperial House law, the emperor must be succeeded by the nearest male relative.
However their daughter Aiko is not in line to the Chrysanthemum Throne because laws of succession in Japan forbid inheritance by or through females. Instead, Naruhito's younger brother Prince Fumihito, 50, is second in line.