Japan's 82-year-old emperor Akihito made a rare televised speech to the nation on Monday, 8 August. The emperor talked about his age, his rigorous daily schedule and his increasing physical limitations.

In a pre-recorded message, which lasted for 10 minutes, he said, "My age has already exceeded 80, and I'm happy to be still healthy. But when I think of my declining physical strength, I'm worried it will be difficult to perform my duties as a symbol." The emperor avoided using the word "abdication" in his address.

He went on to say: "I expressed my feelings, hoping that the Imperial family will always be with its people together in building the nation, and praying that the duties of a symbolic emperor will continue on in a stable manner without any interruption."

Akihito said that one possibility when an emperor could not fulfil his duties due to old age or illness was that a regency could be established. "In coping with the issues of an ageing emperor, I think it is inappropriate to reduce the public duties and activities of a symbolic emperor."

This was only the second time he addressed the nation via TV, the first during the devastating earthquake and tsunami in 2011.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, in an immediate response to the speech, said that the government would take his remarks seriously.

There is no legal provision for abdicating from the Chrysanthemum Throne and any change to the Imperial Household law should be approved by the parliament. The constitution also does not give the emperor any political powers, so his wish to abdicate could be seen as interference with politics.

The emperor seems to have the public support to eventually step down. According to a survey carried out by Kyodo News agency this month, 85.7% of the 1,000 respondents surveyed said that abdication should be legalised for the emperor by revising Imperial House law.