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Japanese Emperor Akihito Abdicates – First Time in 200 Years

Today, Japan’s Emperor Akihito began the official ceremony for abdication from the throne. His eldest son, Crown Prince Naruhito, 59, is to ascend the throne as the Asian nation’s new emperor once his father’s reign officially ends at midnight.

Though the position is now solely symbolic, the Japanese Cabinet passed a bill in May that paved the path for him to abdicate and for his son to succeed him.

Akihito was the first emperor to take the thrown in a post-World War II Japan and he devoted his career to writing the wrongs committed in the war Japan fought in his father’s name. He is also known for reconnecting the monarchy with the people.

Akihito was born in the Tokyo Imperial Palace and is the elder son and the fifth child of the Hirohito and his Empress Nagako

During the American firebombing raids on Tokyo in March 1945, Akihito and his younger brother, Prince Masahito were evacuated from the city. During the American occupation of Japan following WWII, Prince Akihito was tutored in English and briefly studied Political Science at Gakashuin University in Tokyo.

Akihito ascended the throne upon the death of Hirohito on 7 January 1989.

With his abdication comes the end of the Heisei era and the beginning of the Reiwa era, which means orderly and harmony.

The ceremonies follow the numerous abdication rituals which began on March 12 and will be completed with a ceremony Tuesday afternoon at the Matus no Ma room of the Imperial Place with some 300 people, including members of the imperial family and senior government officials, in attendance. During the ceremony, Akihito is scheduled to make his final address to the people of Japan as emperor.

Sarah Morton

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