Emperor Akihito to make last remarks before abdication to end Heisei
TOKYO. KAZINFORM - Emperor Akihito will make final remarks in a ceremony to mark his abdication Tuesday, the first by a Japanese monarch in 202 years, bringing an end to the 30-year Heisei Era under his reign, Kyodo reports.
The 85-year-old emperor's last speech will follow words of gratitude from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who will represent the general public, in a ceremony starting at 5 p.m. at the Imperial Palace. The emperor's elder son, Crown Prince Naruhito, 59, will accede to the throne on Wednesday.
Around 300 guests, including Cabinet ministers, the leaders of both Diet chambers and Supreme Court justices as well as prefectural governors are expected to attend the ceremony in the Matsu no Ma state room.
The emperor will formally step down at midnight Tuesday and no longer engage in official duties.
In 1989, Emperor Akihito became the first monarch enthroned under the postwar Constitution that defines the emperor as a "symbol of the state" without any political power.
On Tuesday morning, the emperor performed his last rituals within the palace to ceremonially report his abdication to his ancestors.
Clad in a dark orange robe, the emperor paid a visit to sanctuaries within the palace precincts, including Kashikodokoro, a shrine dedicated to the Shinto sun goddess Amaterasu, from whom the imperial family is said to be descended.
He read out a statement to report to the ancestors that his abdication ceremony will be held later in the day.
When performing important rituals, a Japanese emperor dons a costume called "Korozen no goho" that dates back to the ninth century.
Some members of the imperial family, including the crown prince and the emperor's younger son Prince Fumihito, 53, and his wife Princess Kiko, 52, also attended the rites that lasted for about an hour.
But Empress Michiko, 84, who is feeling pain in her neck and arms, and Crown Princess Masako, 55, who is suffering from stress-induced illness, did not attend the rituals.
Braving the rain, a number of well-wishers gathered in front of the palace to mark the last day of Heisei, taking commemorative photos and hoping for a glimpse of members of the imperial family entering the palace for the rituals.
On Wednesday, the new emperor will inherit traditional regalia, called "Sanshu no Jingi," including the sacred sword and jewel, as proof of his ascension to the Chrysanthemum Throne in the "Kenji to Shokei no gi" ceremony from 10:30 a.m.
Later in the day, the new emperor will meet Abe and other representatives of the public for the first time since ascending the throne in the "Sokui go Choken no gi" rite beginning at 11:10 a.m.
In 2016, Emperor Akihito indicated his desire to step down in a rare televised video message, citing concern he might not be able to fulfill official duties due to his advanced age. The following year, Japan's Diet enacted one-off legislation enabling him to do so.
Photo credit: AP