On August 8, 2016, the “Emperor's Statement Regarding His Majesty's Duty as the Symbol of the State”(henceforth, “The Statement”) was presented to the public. In 2017 the Japanese Diet enacted a special law (henceforth, “Special law”) that provided a legal exception to the Imperial Houshold Law, which allowed the abdication of the sitting Emperor at that time. At the end of April 2019, the now Emperor Emeritus abdicated the Chrysanthemum Throne, and on the next day, the current Emperor made His Majesty’s Accession.
Just after “The Statement” was presented, a question was raised regarding whether such a Statement could be seen as giving rise to a conflict with the clause of the Constitution of Japan stating that “The Emperor…shall not have power related to government” (Art.4, Cl.1).
During an interview by Asahi Shimbun I previously stated that “The Statement” needs not be deemed unconstitutional. I, however, suggested, that the reason why “The Statement” is not unconstitutional is, in fact, not so simple to answer and made clear that providing such reasoning would require a more precise, in-depth legal analysis. This article is the result of my theoretical research into the reason, why “The Statement” need not be deemed unconstitutional.
It can not be denied that there was causal relationship between “The Statement” and the enactment of the special law regarding the Emperors abdication―causal in the sense, that if “The Statement” was not presented, the Special Law would not have been timely enacted to allow the Emperor Emeritus's abdication.
On the other hand, recognition needs to be made that the contents of “The Statement”―itself, does not include any direct political appeal to the People. Instead, “The Statement” provided objective explanations regarding, among others, the following points: how His Majesty embraced the role as the “Symbol of the State” under the Constitution of Japan; and the anticipated future difficulties in fulfilling the Emperor's duties because of His Majesty’s advanced age. To this end, we can therefore say that―by presenting these explanations―the Emperor Emeritus actually fulfilled His Majesty’s responsibility as the “Symbol of the State”.
Perhaps there may have been some levels of “guessing” by the People regarding the Emperor Emeritus's Inner Thoughts” and His Majesty's wishes to abdicate. But, especially in the case of Emperor Emeritus, what can not be said is that the abdication was realized via the Emperor's “authority” or the difference in the relative positioning of the Emperor to the People.
And, on that note, we find that even the manner in which “The Statement” was presented did not create a conflict with the constitutional law.