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Emperor visits his father's tomb before April 30 abdication

Japan's Emperor Akihito, left, is led by a Shinto priest, after visiting the tomb of his late father Hirohito to report his retirement at the Musashino Imperial Mausoleum in Tokyo, on April 23, 2019. (AP Photo/Koji Sasahara, Pool)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko visited the tomb of Emperor Hirohito on the outskirts of Tokyo on Tuesday for an official ceremony to mark the emperor's abdication on April 30.

The visit to his father's mausoleum in the Musashino Imperial Graveyard in Hachioji is among the 11 ceremonies scheduled for the 85-year-old's relinquishment of the throne, the first by a living Japanese monarch in over two centuries, and the last before rites to be held on the day of abdication.

The emperor, wearing a morning suit, and the empress, wearing a long dress, offered prayers at the mausoleum during the "Shinetsu no gi" ritual.

Crown Prince Naruhito, 59, who will ascend the Chrysanthemum Throne on May 1, will similarly take part in a number of ceremonies and rituals to mark his succession.

As preparations for the imperial succession move forward, the Cabinet of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe decided the same day to appoint the crown prince's top aide, Nobutake Odano, 71, as the new grand chamberlain as of May 1.

Current Grand Chamberlain Chikao Kawai, 66, will simultaneously assume a new post created to support Emperor Akihito after his abdication. Odano is a former ambassador to the European Union, while Kawai is a former vice minister for foreign affairs.

In 2016, the emperor indicated his wish to abdicate in a video message, citing his concern that he might not be able to fulfill his official duties due to his advanced age. Parliament enacted legislation the following year to enable the move.

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