STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
The emperor of Japan was once considered a god. That status ended after World War II. And this next story shows the symbolic head of state has ordinary human desires. He's hinting he'd like to retire. Here's NPR's Elise Hu.
EMPEROR AKIHITO: (Speaking Japanese).
ELISE HU, BYLINE: In only his second-ever televised address to the public, Japan's 82-year-old Emperor Akihito reflected on his advancing age, the tough daily schedule of his ceremonial post and the toll it was taking on his health. Michael Cucek, a political science professor at Tokyo's Temple University, says the emperor's fate is now in the hands of lawmakers.
MICHAEL CUCEK: He's not allowed to ask a very simple thing, which is - I want the law changed that would allow me to retire.
HU: After the emperor's speech, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said, quote, "I will think about this with great force." The popularity of the royal family could help the emperor's case. Five years ago, when Japan was hit by an earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown, the emperor abandoned formality to comfort the Japanese people.
CUCEK: For there to be even a delay of this is an insult to what he has done - the emperor, that is - to make himself close to the people.
HU: At 2,600 years, Japan has the world's longest-running hereditary monarchy. A Japanese emperor hasn't stepped away from the throne in nearly 200 years. It's clear Emperor Akihito is hoping that will change. Elise Hu, NPR News.
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