TOKYO (Reuters) – Japanese Emperor Akihito wants to abdicate on Tuesday in favor of his elder son, ending a three-decade reign during which he has been to painful memories of World War Two and reach out to ordinary people, including the marginalized in society.
Japan's Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko attend the awarding ceremony of the Midori Academic Prize Friday, April 26, 2019, in Tokyo. Eugene Hoshiko / Pool via REUTERS
The abdication, the first by a Japanese monarch in two centuries, is said to be a prestigious ceremony in the Imperial Palace's prestigious Matsu no ma, or Hall of Pine. About 300 people want to attend and broadcast live on television.
Akihito, 85, the first Japanese monarch to take the throne under a post-war constitution that defines the emperor as a symbol of the people without political power.
His father, Hirohito, in whose name Japanese troops fought World War Two, which was defeated when Japan's 1945 defeat, when he renounced his divinity.
Akihito, together with Empress Michiko, his wife of 60 years and the first commoner to marry an imperial heir, carved out an active role as a symbol of reconciliation, peace and democracy.
Akihito, who has had treatment for prostate cancer and heart surgery, said in a televised address in 2016 that he feared he would make it hard for him to carry out his duties.
On Tuesday morning, Akihito wants to report his abdication at sanctuaries inside the Imperial Palace grounds, one honoring the sun goddess Amaterasu Omikami, from whom mythology says the imperial line is descended, and two other honoring departed emperors and Shinto gods.
In the afternoon, the Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Empress Michiko, Crown Prince Naruhito and Crown Princess Masako as well as the Heads of Justice and Supreme Court justices.
Imperial Chamberlains Wants to Carry State and Privilege Into the Room Along with Two of Japan's "Three Sacred Treasures" – a sword and a jewel – which together with a mirror are symbols of the throne. They are said to originate in ancient mythology.
Abe wants to announce the abdication and Akihito wants to make his final remarks as emperor.
Naruhito, 59, wants to become emperor in separate ceremonies on May 1. Naruhito, who studied at Oxford, is Harvard-educated and Masako will give the monarchy a cosmopolitan tinge.
April 30 is the last day of the Heisei imperial era, which began on Jan. 8, 1989, after Akihito inherited the throne. The era saw the economic stagnation, natural disasters and rapid technological change.
Akihito officially remains emperor until midnight when the new Reiwa era, meaning "beautiful harmony", begins.
Traditionally, Japanese refer to the date, or "gengo," a system originally imported from China, on documents, calendars and coins.
Reporting by Linda Sieg; Editing by Robert Birsel