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Emperor Akihito to abdicate on April 30, 2019

Emperor Akihito, left, and Crown Prince Naruhito (Mainichi)
Participants attend a special meeting to discuss the abdication of Emperor Akihito at the Imperial Household Agency's building in Tokyo on Dec. 1, 2017. (Mainichi)

The Imperial House Council has reached an agreement for Emperor Akihito to abdicate on April 30, 2019, marking the first time in about two centuries for an emperor to step down from the Chrysanthemum Throne.

The timing of the Emperor's abdication was discussed at a meeting of the council, called by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the Imperial Household Agency's building in Tokyo on Dec. 1. Under the proposed schedule, the Emperor's eldest son, Crown Prince Naruhito, will ascend the throne on May 1, 2019, the same day a new era name will be adopted. The government is considering announcing the era name at an earlier date to promote public awareness. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said the timing of the announcement would be handled appropriately, considering the effect on people's everyday lives.

Following the council meeting, held on the morning of Dec. 1, Abe reported the conclusion of the 10-member body to Emperor Akihito at the Imperial Palace. Reporters at the prime minister's office were then informed that members had agreed on an abdication date of April 30, 2019.

"Based on the opinion of the Imperial House Council, the government will spare no efforts in quickly establishing a government decree determining the abdication date, and ensuring that the abdication of His Majesty and the Crown Prince's ascension to the throne can be undertaken without incident amid public celebration," the prime minister said.

Under a special law enacted in June paving the way for Emperor Akihito's retirement, the prime minister was required to hear opinions from the Imperial House Council on the abdication of the Emperor.

The Dec. 1 meeting, chaired by Abe, was held behind closed doors. The nine other participants were the Emperor's younger brother Prince Hitachi and his wife Princess Hanako; House of Representatives Speaker Tadamori Oshima; House of Councillors President Chuichi Date; lower house Vice Speaker Hirotaka Akamatsu; upper house Vice President Akira Gunji; Supreme Court Chief Justice Itsuro Terada; Supreme Court Justice Kiyoko Okabe and Imperial Household Agency Grand Steward Shinichiro Yamamoto. The Emperor's youngest son Prince Akishino is also a member of the council, but he was replaced at the Dec. 1 meeting by Prince Hitachi in light of his position as second in line to the throne.

After all members exchanged opinions, Abe proposed an abdication date of April 30, 2019, which was adopted. There was no vote on the date.

Regarding the reason for selecting that date, Suga said the effect on the lives of members of the public was taken into consideration, adding that officials chose a time appropriate for the Emperor to step down and the celebration of the Crown Prince's ascension to the throne. He said issues that were taken into consideration included Emperor Akihito being able to celebrate the 30th anniversary of his ascension to the throne on Jan. 7, 2019 before relinquishing the throne, and the fact that early April was a busy moving time for many people. Other issues discussed included local elections scheduled for April 2019, and the point that having the Emperor abdicate and the Crown Prince rise to the throne over the two days following Showa Day on April 29 -- the birthday of Emperor Akihito's father Emperor Hirohito -- would enable Japan to look back over the nation's past.

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