Japanese Emperor Akihito Abdicates, Son Naruhito Set to Ascend the Throne
The month of May will mark the beginning of the Reiwa era for Japan as Crown Prince Naruhito will be inaugurated as the 126th emperor.
The Kenji to Shokei no Gi, one of the ceremonies to mark the accession of Naruhito, will take place on May 1 at 10:30 a.m. GMT+9 or 9:30 a.m. PHT. After, His Majesty's First Audience Ceremony will take place where he will meet with the Heads of the Legislative houses, Executive, and Judiciary and other Representatives of the people.
Japan's monarchy is the oldest continuous monarchy in the world. It’s had an unbroken hereditary line of 126 emperors. Since the World War, however, the role of the emperor has changed. Emperor Hirohito was the last to be considered "divine." After his reign, Japan’s constitution has been updated with the emperor's role: “The Emperor shall be the symbol of the State and of the unity of the People.”
Each Japanese emperor is assigned a gengo or an era name. Naruhito's is Reiwa which can be roughly translated to "pursuing harmony." Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said back in April that the name of the era signifies the rebirth of Japanese culture.
Naruhito's father, Emperor Akihito, has reigned over Japan's Chrysanthemum Throne for 30 years. Due to health reasons, the 85-year-old monarch decided to formally step down today. According to reports, Akihito had stated his intention to abdicate as far back as 2010.
Akihito became the first Japanese emperor to abdicate in two centuries. In 1817, Emperor Koukaku also abdicated in favor of his son.
His Majesty the Emperor, along with Empress Michiko and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe attended a short ceremony in the Matsu-no-Ma stateroom of the Imperial Palace. He then made remarks on the occasion of the ceremony of his abdication at the Seiden state hall. Read the full transcript below:
Today, I am concluding my duties as the Emperor.
I would like to offer my deep gratitude to the words just spoken by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on behalf of the people of Japan.
Since ascending the throne 30 years ago, 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. I 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.