Japanese emperor says he discussed abdication with princes

Japanese Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko smile at people seeing them off before departing Tokyo Station for the Imperial Villa in Nasu to spend their summer vacation on July 25, 2016.

The Emperor of Japan made the announcement indicating his intention to abdicate after "thoroughly discussing the matter with the Crown Prince and Prince Akishino," the Empress revealed in a written message released Thursday - her 82nd birthday.

This is the first time a member of the Imperial family has mentioned the Emperor's announcement concerning abdication, which he made in August.

In addition to explaining that the Emperor had decided to make his announcement after discussing the issue with the two princes, the Empress also detailed her position on the issue.

"I have always felt that, if an important decision regarding the system of the Imperial Household is to be made, those in the line of Imperial succession should be the first to be involved, not their spouses or relatives," the Empress said. "As such, it was with awe and respect that I heard the thoughts revealed by His Majesty, which He made after thoroughly discussing the matter with the Crown Prince and Prince Akishino."

The Empress said "it came as a shock" to see the words "seizen taii" (abdicate while living) used in the Japanese media. "It could have been because until then I had never come across this expression even in history books that, along with surprise, I briefly experienced pain upon seeing those words," the Empress said.

The Empress also expressed sympathy for the victims of natural disasters that occurred in the past year, and her gratitude at being able to realise a visit to the Philippines to mourn "people of both the Philippines and Japan" who died during World War II.

The Empress also touched on the Rio de Janeiro Olympics and Paralympics, and revealed she has kept many photographs of Japanese athletes printed in newspapers. She also expressed her "sincere condolences" over the Oct. 13 death of Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej.