Japan’s Emperor Akihito officially announces abdication

Japan’s Emperor Akihito formally abdicated today, during a historic ceremony in Tokyo. He is the country’s first monarch to step down from the Chrysanthemum Throne in 200 years.

Images showed Akihito in a traditional robe entering the main Shrine of Kashikodokoro to report his retirement to the gods. The shrine is where the goddess Amaterasu, said to be the direct ancestress of the imperial family, is enshrined.

In his last public address as emperor, Akihito handed over the symbols of power and thanked the public for their support during his 30-year reign.

The 85 year old was given permission to abdicate after saying he felt unable to fulfil his role because of his age and declining health.

Akihito officially announced his retirement before other members of the royal family and top government officials. His reign runs through midnight when his son, Crown Prince Naruhito, becomes new emperor and his era begins.

“I have performed my duties as the emperor with a deep sense of trust in and respect for the people. And I consider myself most fortunate to have been able to do so. Sincerely thank the people who accepted and supported me in my role as the symbol of the state. I sincerely wish, together with the empress, that the Reiwa Era, which begins tomorrow, will be a stable and fruitful one, and I pray, with all my heart, for peace and happiness for all the people in Japan and around the world.”

Crown Prince Naruhito will ascend the throne on Wednesday, beginning a new era called Reiwa in Japan’s unique calendar.

While the emperor holds no political power, he serves as a national figurehead. Akihito’s reign has been marked by his interactions with people suffering from disease and disaster, which have made him loved by many Japanese people

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