Japan's emperor engaging in close monthly meetings with sons

JAPAN - "I have no worries, I feel rather reassured, because the crown prince and Prince Akishino will assume my duties when I become ill," the Emperor said at the press conference before his 79th birthday.

His clear refusal to reduce his official duties shows the deep trust he places in Crown Prince Naruhito and Prince Akishino.

Though a lack of communication with the crown prince was once a concern, the distance between the Emperor and his oldest son is said to have shrunk recently.

At a press conference before his overseas visit in 2004, the crown prince said of his wife, Crown Princess Masako, "There were developments that were regarded as denying her career and going against her personality."

She is recuperating from an adjustment disorder.

In response to this remark, the Emperor wrote in his response to reporters' questions for his birthday in the same year that he was very surprised with the crown prince's statement, as he had never heard such a thing before.

In 2005, Toshio Yuasa, the grand steward of the Imperial Household Agency, suggested that the crown prince should try to further promote communication with the Emperor and Empress at a press conference on the occasion of his retirement.

Also in 2008, then IHA chief Shingo Haketa said, "I think the Emperor and the Empress are concerned, as the number of visits [by the family of the crown prince] to the Imperial Palace has not increased."

However since last year, regular meetings between the Emperor, the crown prince, Prince Akishino and the agency chief at the Imperial Palace have been held, and meetings have been held once a month since July this year, according to a source close to the agency.

Revisions on the Imperial system, including one to allow the creation of Imperial branches by letting female members maintain their Imperial status after marriage, were discussed this year, and the review of the Emperor's funeral is also under way in accordance with his wishes.

These and other important issues regarding the Imperial family's future seem to have been thoroughly discussed in the meetings.

After November 2011, when the Emperor was hospitalized with bronchitis, the crown prince conducted state affairs on his father's behalf on three occasions in three months, while Prince Akishino met people who received the autumn decorations for contributions to society on behalf of the Emperor.

At a press conference in February, the crown prince said, "I would be happy to do anything if it would help to reduce the Emperor's burden."

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