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Emperor Akihito Abdicates Japanese Throne After 30-Year Reign

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85-year-old Emperor Akihito abdicated the Japanese throne after reigning for 30 years and stepped down to let his son take his place Tuesday.

Akihito announced his abdication in a short speech over television, standing next to his wife, the Empress Michiko, in the Imperial Palace’s Pine Chamber according to WaPo. He is the first Japenese emperor to abdicate the throne since the Emperor Koukaku gave way abdicated and was succeeded by his son in 1817. Akihito’s son, crown Prince Naruhito, will be crowned on Wednesday and will introduce the Reiwa era, according to The Washington Post.

“Since ascending the throne 30 years ago, I have performed my duties as the emperor with a deep sense of trust in and respect for the people, and I consider myself fortunate to have been able to do so,” the emperor said in his television appearance, according to the Washington Post.

“I sincerely wish together with the empress that the Reiwa era, which begins tomorrow, will be a stable and fruitful one,” Akihito said, “and I pray with all my heart for peace and happiness for all the people in Japan and around the world.”

Ceremonial procedures accompanied the emperor’s abdication in which some of Japan’s sacred treasures were presented: a sword representing valor, a jewel representing benevolence, the Privy Seal of the emperor, and the Great Seal of Japan, which is the seal of state according to The Washington Post.

Japanese citizens reportedly adore Akihito for a compassionate reign, humanist approach to his imperial state, and his refusal to emphasize nationalistic tradition related to his reign, according to The Washington Post. However, ultra conservatives took issue with his humanist approach, particularly for attitudes that lessened his imperial reputation such as kneeling down to talk to victims of Nagasaki volcanoes.

“While keeping in our mind the way Your Majesty has lived, we the people of Japan are determined to work for the creation of a bright future for Japan as a peaceful country full of hope and pride,” said Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, also expressing “deep reverence and gratitude” to Akihito for sharing the “joys and sorrows” of the Japenese people.

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