today, "At 82, Emperor Akihito of Japan Wants to Retire. Will Japan Let Him?," raises so many questions it's hard to know where to begin.
The first, of course, is retire from what?
The piece isn't clear, but it makes reference to the emperor's "punishing" and "rigorous" daily schedule, and "the burden of his official duties and his anxieties."
(Wikipedia has a list of the emperor's ceremonial roles here. Spoiler alert: none of them appear to be too "punishing," "rigorous," or "burdensome.")
But in a fit of uncharacteristic Japanese hyperbole Daisuke Kodaka, an employee at a cosmetics company in Tokyo, is quoted in the article as saying (all emphasis mine):
We speak respectfully about the emperor, but arguably we use him like a slave. He’s our symbol, but as a person he doesn’t have human rights. We should recognize his rights.
Another, Tobias Harris of Teneo Intelligence, a political risk consulting firm, adds:
This is an aging country, and there are going to be a lot of people sympathetic to the emperor’s wanting a comfortable retirement.
Slave? Really? No human rights? This is a person who is:
...never referred to by his given name, but rather is referred to as "His Majesty the Emperor" which may be shortened to "His Majesty."
Something tells me the emperor's "comfortable retirement" might look a lot like his "comfortable pre-retirement." Just a guess.
Second, the piece in the Times mentions:
Japan's monarchy — the Chrysanthemum Throne — is the oldest in the world, stretching back to antiquity. Emperor Akihito’s family has held it almost 2,700 years, according to the customary, if semi-legendary genealogy.
2,700 years? That's a long time! I can only imagine what my ancestors were doing 2,700 years ago. Assuming they were walking upright in 684 B. C., I suppose they were probably making fun of that newfangled invention, the wheel (in air quotes): "Ha! It'll never catch on -- it's just a fad. What a maroon!"
Finally, check out that picture of the emperor at the top of this post. When do you suppose, in the vast 2,700 years of the monarchy's history, did the emperor decide to wear Western clothes like that? (He looks like he grew up in Connecticut!) That's a heck of a concession from one of "the direct descendants of the sun-goddess Amaterasu's grandson Ninigi, who descended from Heaven."