Japanese Emperor Akihito© Japan Pool via AP.
Japanese Emperor Akihito declared on Tuesday that he is abdicating and expressed gratitude to the citizens, who have supported and considered him as the country’s symbol for more than 30 years.
The monarch announced this in his address to the nation during a ceremony broadcast live on national television on occasion of his abdication. The prestigious Matsu no Ma (Hall of Pine) at the imperial palace hosted the event.
Some 300 people attended the ceremony, including Empress Michiko and the imperial family members, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, cabinet ministers, heads of both houses of parliament, the chief justice, representatives of local authorities and the public.
"I’m thankful with all my heart to our people for recognizing me and supporting me as the country’s symbol," Akihito said. "I was happy because I could fulfill my duties as the emperor, feeling deep trust and love to our people." The emperor also voiced hope that in the coming years Japan will see peace and prosperity.
The Japanese prime minister, who spoke at the ceremony on behalf of the citizens, expressed gratitude to the emperor for having been always together with the people and working to the benefit of the nation.
The abdication ceremony featured the emperor’s stamp and also the so-called imperial treasures or regalia - a sword, a gem and a mirror, which symbolizes the sun goddess Amaterasu, the mythic founder of the imperial dynasty.
Emperor Akihito, 85, announced his wish to step down back in 2016 due to his old age. Under Japan’s law, the monarch rules for life, but the parliament passed a law making a one-off exception for Akihito. He will remain emperor until the last minute of April 30.
Starting from May 1, his eldest son Crown Prince Naruhito, 59, will become a new emperor.