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Gov't approves plan to hold Emperor's abdication ceremony

This photo shows Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko in the gardens of the Imperial Palace. (Photo courtesy of the Imperial Household Agency)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- The Japanese government on Tuesday gave a green light to the plan to hold Emperor Akihito's abdication ceremony on April 30, 2019, providing a legal basis for the event that would make him the first Japanese monarch to step down in more than two centuries.

    It approved an ordinance of one-off legislation for the emperor's retirement, which also enables the emperor and Empress Michiko to be treated in the same way as the new emperor and his family members in terms of living costs and security guards, among other things, even after abdication.

    "As there are a variety of things we need to prepare toward the imperial succession, we will do our best so that the emperor's abdication and the crown prince's accession will be carried out smoothly," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said in a press conference.

    Crown Prince Naruhito, the 58-year-old elder son of the emperor, is set to ascend the throne on May 1, 2019.

    Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's government enacted the special legislation in June last year and approved in December the date for the retirement of the 84-year-old emperor. But the ordinance was necessary as there was no legal basis for the emperor's farewell event, which is expected to be conducted as a state occasion at the Imperial Palace.

    The government will compile by the middle of this month its basic plan to stage relevant ceremonies, including the one for the crown prince's enthronement.

    On Feb. 20, a government panel preparing the rituals worked out the content of the abdication ceremony, during which Abe will convey gratitude to Emperor Akihito on behalf of the Japanese people, followed by his last remarks to the public.

    A limited number of about 300 participants, including the premier and heads of both Diet chambers, are expected to attend the abdication ceremony.

    The outgoing emperor, who has undergone heart surgery and treatment for prostate cancer, indicated his wishes to step down in a rare video message in August 2016, citing concerns about his advanced age and weakening health.


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