Japan’s Emperor Akihito is set to deliver his second ever televised address to the public.
Last month, Japanese media reported that the emperor wanted to step down in coming years, which would be unprecedented in modern Japan.
He is not expected to use the word “abdicate” because he is barred from political involvement.
The palace said on Friday he would be speaking about his “feelings regarding his duties as a symbol of the nation”.
There is no legal provision for abdication in Japanese law, which would mean a law change would be required.
Under the constitution the emperor is not allowed to have political powers so a wish to abdicate could be seen as him interfering in politics.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is expected to issue a statement after the emperor’s speech.
Five things about Japan’s emperor
- Has adopted a more modern style, making efforts to draw the imperial family closer to the people.
- He married a commoner in 1959 – their love story captured the nation and was dubbed the “tennis court romance” as they met over the nets. Together he and Empress Michiko have three children.
- Has sought to heal the scars of World War Two, saying last year: “Looking back at the past, together with deep remorse over the war, I pray that this tragedy of war will not be repeated and together with the people express my deep condolences for those who fell in battle and in the ravages of war.”
- Acknowledged his Korean ancestry in the run-up to the 2002 World Cup, which Japan and South Korea jointly hosted. This surprised many in Japan given the country’s bitter colonial legacy on the Korean peninsula.
- His passion is marine biology and he is an expert on the goby
A pre-recorded message from the 82-year-old emperor, who is revered in Japan, will be made public at 15:00 local time (06:00 GMT).
Public broadcaster NHK reported the emperor, who has had heart surgery and was treated for prostate cancer, would ask Crown Prince Naruhito and his wife to take over many of his public duties.
The 56-year-old crown prince is first in line to the Chrysanthemum throne, followed by his younger brother Prince Akishino. Women are not allowed to inherit the throne and so Princess Aiko, the daughter of Crown Prince Naruhito, cannot succeed her father.
Last month, Japanese media reported that Emperor Akihito had told close aides and his family that his age and health were making it difficult for him to perform his duties.
If he were to abdicate, it would be the first time a Japanese emperor had stood down since 1817, when Emperor Kokaku handed over to his son.
A nationwide survey by Kyodo News Agency showed that 90% of respondents believed Emperor Akihito is given too much work, with more than 85% saying that abdication should be legalised.
Historically, the emperor of Japan was seen as semi-divine. But after Japan’s World War Two defeat, Emperor Akihito’s father Hirohito was the first to give up his god-like status to become a “symbol of the state and of the unity of the people”.
This is only the second time Emperor Akihito has delivered a video message to the Japanese people. The first was after the devastating earthquake and tsunami in 2011.