Japanese emperor to abdicate on April 30, 2019

FILE PHOTO: Japan's Emperor Akihito (R) and Empress Michiko leave after praying at the altar of late Prince Tomohito, a cousin of the Emperor, in Tokyo June 19, 2012. REUTERS/Itsuo Inouye/Pool/File Photo

TOKYO, (Xinhua) — Japan’s Emperor Akihito is expected to abdicate on April 30, 2019, the Japanese government said on Friday following a meeting of the Imperial House Council.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said that the 10-member Imperial House Council meeting, involving the prime minister, politicians, the judiciary and imperial family members, decided on the abdication date.

After the emperor abdicates, his elder son Crown Prince Naruhito will ascend the throne on May 1, 2019.

Japan’s top government spokesperson Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a press conference that the emperor’s abdication date will be reported to the Cabinet on Dec. 5.

Abe’s Cabinet is expected to formally approve the abdication date and the succession schedule around Dec. 8.

Japanese Emperor Akihito ascended to the throne after the death in 1989 of his father Hirohito, posthumously known as Emperor Showa.

He indicated his wish to relinquish and hand over the throne to the crown prince in a rare video message in August last year, citing his age.

Japan’s parliament enacted in June an one-off law to allow Emperor Akihito to step down and pass his duties over to Crown Prince Naruhito.

The law, designed specially for the current emperor, would allow Emperor Akihito to be the first Japanese emperor that relinquishes the throne in around 200 years.

The government initially eyed allowing the emperor to abdicate in December 2018, with the emperor’s 85th birthday in mind, but the plan was opposed by the Imperial Household Agency as it would overlap with year-end and New Year imperial events.

Another proposal of March 31, 2019 also met oppositions as it coincides with local political elections and the end of the Japanese fiscal year.

According to the Imperial Household Agency, the prime minister presented April 30, 2019 as the only option to the meeting on Friday and attendants to the meeting agreed to it without taking a vote.

Abe told reporters that the government will do its utmost to prepare for a smooth succession.

A government body headed by Suga will be set up to prepare for ceremonies marking the succession.

Editor: Lu Hui