Tokyo [Japan], Oct. 27 : Prince Mikasa (100), the oldest member of Japan's Imperial family, died of heart failure on Thursday at a Tokyo hospital.
The prince was the youngest brother of Emperor Hirohito, known as Emperor Showa, reports the Japan Times.
In May, he was hospitalised for pneumonia. He recovered from the symptoms but since then his heart weakened, which led to his death at 8:34 a.m. Thursday at St. Luke's International Hospital in Chuo Ward. Prince Mikasa was born on December 2, 1915. His wife, Princess Yuriko, 93, was at his bedside when he passed away said a spokesman at the Imperial Household Agency.
He was fifth in line to succeed the male-only Imperial throne. There are now only four heirs in the Imperial family - Crown Prince Naruhito, 56, Prince Akishino, 50, Prince Hisahito, 10, and Prince Hitachi, 80.
"I can't bear the sense of sorrow facing the report of his death. Born as the fourth son of Emperor Taisho, he had long assisted his elder brother, Emperor Showa, and then the reigning Emperor (Akihito)," Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was quoted, as saying by Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga at a news conference later in the day.
Post Mikasa's death, an advisory panel to the government is currently discussing ways to reduce public duties for Emperor Akihito, 82, including possible legislation to allow him to abdicate due to his advanced age.
The Imperial family is, meanwhile, facing a shortage of young male heirs, raising concerns over the long-term survival of the world's oldest existing monarchy.
Following the passing of Prince Mikasa, a meeting between the Emperor and visiting Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte that was scheduled for later Thursday was cancelled.
During the 1937-1945 Sino-Japanese war, Prince Mikasa served as an officer of the Imperial Army in China under a pseudonym, Wakasugi and he was critical of Japan's aggression into China during the war.
In the post-war years, the prince emphasized the importance of peace..