Emperor Akihito of Japan Steps Down after Three Decades on Power
This is the first time in two centuries in the history that a Japanese monarch is going to abdicate the throne. The abdication will be marked by a simple ceremony in the Imperial Palace’s Matsu no Ma or Hall of Pine on Tuesday.
Japan’s Emperor Akihito steps down from the throne thereby making way for his elder son to be the next emperor of Japan, ending a three-decade of progressive rule, where he encouraged modern and people-centric policies for the overall development of Japan as a nation.
This is the first time in two centuries in the history that a Japanese monarch is going to abdicate the throne. The abdication will be marked by a simple ceremony in the Imperial Palace’s Matsu no Ma or Hall of Pine on Tuesday. Nearly 300 people are expected to attend the ceremony, which will be broadcast live on the television.
85-year-old Akihito was the first Japanese monarch to take the throne following a post-war constitution, which defines the emperor as a symbol of the people without political power. His father was Hirohito under whose name, Japanese troops fought World War II, was considered a living deity, but after Japan’s defeat in 1945, he renounced his divinity.
Akihito along with Empress Michiko, who is his wife and the first commoner to marry an imperial heir in Japan, has carved out an active role as a symbol of reconciliation, peace and democracy.
In a televised address to the nation in 2016, Akihito, who is undergoing treatment for prostate cancer and heart surgery, said that he feared his age is going to make it hard for him to carry out his duties and responsibilities.
Emperor Akihito will report for his abdication in the morning at sanctuaries inside the Imperial Palace grounds. He will then pray to the sun goddess Amaterasu Omikami from whom according to mythology the imperial line is said to have descended and then will honour two other departed emperors and Shinto gods.
The abdication ceremony will take place in the afternoon in presence of dignitaries including Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Empress Michiko, Crown Prince Naruhito and Crown Princess Masako, as well as the heads of both houses of parliament and Supreme Court Judges of the country.
Sacred tradition will follow when imperial chamberlains will carry state and privy seals into the room along with two of Japan’s ‘Three Sacred Treasures’, a sword and a jewel, which are symbols of the throne. These sacred treasures are said to have originated from ancient mythology. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will then announce the abdication and Akihito will make his final speech as emperor.
59-year-old Naruhito will become the emperor of Japan in separate ceremonies that are scheduled for tomorrow. Naruhito, who has studied at Oxford University, is likely to continue an active role and together with Harvard educated Masako who is going to give the monarchy a cosmopolitan tinge.
The abdication also marks the last day of the Heisei imperial era, which began on 8th January 1989 when Akihito first inherited the throne. The Heisei imperial era saw economic stagnation, natural disasters and rapid technological change in the country. He will officially remain the emperor of Japan till midnight, after which the new ‘Reiwa era’ which also means “beautiful harmony”, will begin.