TOKYO -- Emperor Akihito expressed his gratitude to the people for supporting him at a news conference ahead of his 85th birthday on Dec. 23, his last before he abdicates in April 2019.
"As I come to the end of my journey as Emperor, I would like to thank from the bottom of my heart the many people who accepted and continued to support me as the symbol of the State," he said.
He looked back upon the past 30 years since he acceded to the Imperial Throne saying, "Ever since ascending to the throne, I have spent my days searching for what should be the role of the Emperor who is designated to be the symbol of the State by the Constitution of Japan."
"I intend to carry out my duties in that capacity and shall continue to contemplate this question as I perform my day-to-day duties until the day of my abdication," the Emperor added.
Emperor Akihito has shown the importance of handing down the memory of war to future generations through his activities, such as his trips in Japan and overseas to console the spirits of war victims.
Regarding this, the Emperor emphasized that it is important to "pass on this history accurately to those born after the war."
As he looks ahead to celebrating the 60th anniversary of his wedding to Empress Michiko on April 10, 2019, the Emperor expressed his gratitude to the Empress for supporting him and dedicating herself to the Imperial Family and the general public.
"I am also truly grateful to the Empress, who herself was once one of the people, but who chose to walk this path with me, and over 60 long years continued to serve with great devotion both the Imperial Family and the people of Japan," he said.
Emperor Akihito expressed hope that his sons -- Crown Prince Naruhito and his younger brother Prince Akishino -- will play a key role in the Imperial Family in the coming era.
"The Crown Prince, who will be the Emperor in the new era, and Prince Akishino, who will be supporting the new Emperor, have each accumulated various experiences, and I think that, while carrying on the traditions of the Imperial Family, they will continue to walk their paths, keeping pace with the ever-changing society," said the Emperor.
Emperor Akihito occasionally spoke in a trembling voice during his news conference, which the Imperial Household Agency says will be his last.
After his abdication, Emperor Akihito will hand over his duties to Crown Prince Naruhito, who is to accede to the Imperial Throne on May 1, 2019.
(Japanese original by Hiroyuki Takashima, City News Department)