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Gov't gears up preparations for imperial succession rites next year

Emperor Akihito, left, and Crown Prince Naruhito (Mainichi)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- The Japanese government said Tuesday it will set up a secretariat next month to prepare for a series of imperial succession rites related to the emperor' abdication and his son's enthronement in 2019.

The secretariat to be launched on Aug. 1 will be tasked with the overall coordination and practical matters of ceremonies linked to Emperor Akihito's abdication on April 30, 2019 and Crown Prince Naruhito's accession to the throne the next day.

"We will proceed government preparations so that the ceremonies will be held smoothly," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a press conference.

Consisting of 26 full-time members, the secretariat will be headed by Shigetaka Yamasaki, the 58-year-old chief of the Local Administration Bureau at the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry.

In April, the government approved a basic plan for how to stage the imperial succession rites. According to the plan, a ceremonial committee chaired by the prime minister and ceremonial headquarters led by the chief Cabinet secretary will be established around this autumn.

The secretariat will help set up the committee, which is in charge of compiling outlines for a smooth succession, and the headquarters, which is tasked with coordination among government ministries and agencies.

Some of the ceremonies will be held as state occasions including "Taiirei Seiden no Gi," in which the emperor extends his last words to the chiefs of the three branches of the government on the day of his abdication, and "Sokuirei Seiden no Gi," a highlight event for the incoming emperor on Oct. 22, 2019.

Emperor Akihito, 84, will step down as he has expressed his wishes to retire, citing concerns about his advanced age and failing health. His eldest son, Crown Prince Naruhito, 58, will succeed the Chrysanthemum throne.

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