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Japan's Emperor Akihito will abdicate the throne on April 30, 2019



Emperor
Akihito.
Thomson
Reuters

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  • Japan’s much admired Emperor Akihito is set to abdicate
    on April 30, 2019, at age 85.
  • His son Crown Prince Naruhito will ascend the next
    day.
  • Akihito’s abdication has raised questions about the
    role of women in the 2,000-year-old monarchy.

TOKYO (AP) — Japan’s much admired Emperor Akihito is set to
abdicate on April 30, 2019, at age 85 in the first such departure
from the Chrysanthemum Throne in about 200 years, the government
said Friday.

Akihito’s elder son Crown Prince Naruhito will ascend the throne
a day later, beginning a new as yet unnamed era.

The decision was made Friday at a meeting of the Imperial House
Council, which was chaired by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and
included parliamentary leaders, supreme court judges and imperial
family members.

Akihito expressed his apparent wish to abdicate in August 2016,
citing his age and health.

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Abe will provide the summary of the meeting at the next Cabinet
session early next week ahead of the formal approval expected on
Dec. 8, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters.

“I feel deeply moved that the decision was made smoothly by the
Imperial House Council, marking a major step toward an imperial
succession,” Abe said.

Suga said the timing was chosen so that Akihito can abdicate
after reaching his 30th anniversary on the throne, a milestone.
Late April is also more appropriate for many Japanese to embrace
the change of an era after settling down from a busy period of
travel and job transfers around April 1, the beginning of a new
fiscal year.

The events also mean longer Golden Week holidays — up to 10
straight days for those who can take May 2 off.

Legislation allowing Akihito to abdicate within three years was
enacted earlier this year.

There will be more preparations to come, including deciding a new
era name and a new home for the emperor and the empress, Suga
said.

“We would like everyone to celebrate an abdication of the emperor
and succession of the crown prince,” he said.

Akihito’s desire to leave the throne revived a debate about the
country’s 2,000-year-old monarchy, one of the world’s oldest, as
well as discussion about improving the status of female members
of the shrinking royal population. The current male-only
succession rules prohibit women from succeeding to the
Chrysanthemum Throne and female members lose their royal status
when they marry a commoner.

Akihito was 56 years old when he ascended the throne in January
1989 after the death of his father, Emperor Hirohito, beginning
the Heisei Era. Naruhito will be 59 when he becomes emperor.

The emperor and his wife, Empress Michiko, who was born a
commoner, are an elegant, stately pair often seen making visits
to disaster victims and carrying out other official duties.

The legislation for Akihito’s case was needed because the 1947
Imperial House Law does not provide for abdication. The last
emperor to abdicate was Kokaku in 1817.

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