Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko will pass on their annual public duties of visiting kindergartens in spring and homes for the elderly in fall to their children after both of them turn 80, according to the Imperial Household Agency.
Both the emperor and empress expressed their willing to hand over the duties, according to Kyodo news agency. The royal couple said that playing with children and giving hope and strength to the elderly seem to be more suitable for the younger generation – Crown Prince Naruhito, his wife Crown Princess Masako, and Prince Akishino and his wife Princess Kiko.
Emperor Akihito will turn 80 in December and the empress Michiko in October, next year. They have been visiting annually a kindergarten on Children’s Day in May, and a home for the elderly on Respect for the Aged Day in September, both public holidays.
One year ago, crown prince Naruhito was saying that efforts should be made to reduce the burden on his ailing father, as the monarch was recovering from heart bypass surgery. Naruhito said that as Akihito gets older it is increasingly important to ensure that his official duties are not too heavy.
The emperor suffered a heart surgery last year, after tests revealed a narrowing of two of his coronary arteries. In 2003, he had been treated for prostate cancer.