The Chrysanthemum Throne is not often vacated. Japan’s current emperor, Akihito, has sat on it for over 27 years, having inherited it from his father Emperor Shōwa—better known as Hirohito—who ruled for nearly 63 years before dying in January 1989.
These days, the throne is largely a ceremonial position, if still widely respected among the Japanese people.
Still, it was a mild surprise when word recently leaked out that Akihito was considering abdicating his rule as monarch, according to the BBC, mostly because, at 82, he was starting to feel less than up for the job.
That abdication could happen in the “next few years,” according to the Japanese broadcaster NHK, after Akihito has suffered various health problems in recent times.
So, who’s next? That would be Naruhito, Akihito’s oldest son and currently the Crown Prince of Japan. The 56-year-old has a small amount of experience that might help him should he get the gig. In 2012, during his father’s heart surgery, Naruhito temporarily took charge.