Japan’s cabinet approved a bill on Friday that would allow Emperor Akihito to voluntarily step down. The bill paves the way for the first abdication by a Japanese emperor in nearly two centuries. According to Reuters, the 83-year-old emperor has had heart surgery and prostate cancer treatment. In rare public remarks last year, he said he feared age might make it hard for him to fulfill his duties. In Japanese royalty, there is a distinct shortage of male heirs and a shrinking pool of royals generally. The problem was thrust back into the limelight this week, with news that Akihito’s eldest granddaughter will marry a commoner–after which she too must become a commoner.
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