TOKYO -- Emperor Akihito attended a ceremony called "Taiirei-Seiden-no-Gi" related to his abdication at the Imperial Palace here and gave his last speech to the public as the reigning monarch on the evening of April 30.
The Emperor stated in his speech, "I sincerely thank the people who accepted and supported me in my role as the symbol of the State."
The ceremony, which is part of acts in matters of state, was attended by some 300 people including Empress Michiko, Crown Prince Naruhito and Crown Princess Masako, as well as heads of the three branches of the government and members of the Cabinet.
The Emperor's abdication marks the first in about 200 years since late Edo-period Emperor Kokaku stepped down in 1817. The "Taiirei-Seiden-no-Gi" ceremony was performed as part of abdication ceremonies for the first time since Japan adopted a constitutional political system.
At around 5 p.m., Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko, clad in a morning suit and a long dress, respectively, entered the "Matsu no Ma" room at the Imperial Palace. Among the Three Sacred Treasures, known as the Imperial Regalia of Japan, the sacred sword and the sacred jewel as well as State and Privy seals for use in matters of state were brought into the room by chamberlains. They were followed by the Crown Prince and the Crown Princess and other adult members of the Imperial Household.
On behalf of members of the general public, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe delivered an address, explaining that the abdication is based on a special law allowing Emperor Akihito to abdicate and expressing gratitude for His Majesty's service spanning some 30 years.
"I sincerely wish, together with the Empress, that the Reiwa era, which begins tomorrow, will be a stable and fruitful one, and I pray, with all my heart, for peace and happiness for all the people in Japan and around the world," the Emperor stated. After the speech, he directed his gaze at the ceremony participants.
Emperor Akihito then left the room, accompanied by aides holding the sword, jewel and the seals. Other Imperial Family members followed suit, and the ceremony ended after about 10 minutes.
Based on the provisions in the Constitution that the Emperor shall not have powers related to government, the government designed the ceremony to avoid the impression that the Emperor was abdicating the Imperial Throne based on his own will. This is why the prime minister delivered a speech ahead of the Emperor, and why Emperor Akihito did not use the term "abdication."
Prior to the evening ceremony, the Emperor paid his respects at the Three Palace Sanctuaries at the Imperial Palace in the morning to report his abdication.
Emperor Akihito ascended to the throne on Jan. 7, 1989, upon the demise of Emperor Hirohito, posthumously known as Emperor Showa. Emperor Akihito's reign spanned 30 years, three months and 24 days.
(Japanese original by Nao Yamada, City News Department)