04/30/2019, 10.07
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Tokyo, the abdication of Emperor Akihito begins

In the first rite, in private, the sovereign announced his abdication to the mythological ancestors. The main rite of renunciation of the throne will begin at 5 pm local time. Starting at midnight tomorrow, Akihito will take on the title of "emeritus emperor". Tomorrow morning, Crown Prince Naruhito will inherit the imperial treasures.

Tokyo (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The Japanese emperor Akihito steps down from the Chrysanthemum Throne today, becoming the first monarch to abdicate in over 200 years. The day's ceremonies began this morning with several private rituals in the Imperial Palace.

The 85-year-old ruler was granted legal permission to abdicate after 30 years of reign. In 2016, Akihito stated that he was no longer able to fulfill his role due to the age and decline of his health. His son, crown prince Naruhito, will officially take the throne at midnight today, beginning a new imperial era.

In today's first private ceremonies, the emperor announced his abdication to the mythological ancestors of the imperial family of Japan, going to a Shinto temple inside the residence. The monarch wore ceremonial court vestments identical to those worn by the imperial family for formal occasions between the eighth and twelfth centuries. The emperor's robe was held clear of the floor of the palace buildings by an attendant in white, who was followed by another retainer carrying a ceremonial sword in his outstretched arms (photo).

Television footage shows the emperor entering the Shinto shrine of the imperial family inside the palace. Shortly after 11, he met with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and government representatives. It is envisaged that the Taiirei-Seiden-nogi, or the main renunciation ceremony of His Majesty the Emperor, will take place in the state hall of Matsu-no-Ma (the Pine Chamber) in the Imperial Palace.

The function will begin at 5 pm local time, with entry into the chamber of Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko, and will last about 10 minutes. Over 330 participants will be present. Starting at midnight, Akihito will take on the title of "emeritus emperor".

Akihito grew up during World War II and was 11 years old when his father Hirohito announced the end of the war on the radio. Akihito embraced his role as peacemaker and often represented his father in reconciliation missions as a young crown prince, decades before he himself became emperor. He was the first emperor in the modern history of Japan, whose era was not marked by conflict. Although he avoided openly apologizing for the horrors of war, he repeatedly expressed regret in written statements.

Tomorrow morning, Crown Prince Naruhito will inherit the imperial treasures in his first ceremony as Emperor. Naruhito will be the 126th sovereign and will lead the country into the new Reiwa era. It will mark the end of the present age of Heisei, which began when Akihito took the throne in 1989.

Naruhito, 59, studied at Oxford and became the crown prince at the age of 28.  In 1986, during a tea party he met his wife, the hereditary princess Masako Owada. The two royals married in 1993. The couple's only daughter, Princess Aiko, was born in 2001. However, the current law prevents women from inheriting the throne. His uncle Prince Fumihito is the first in line of succession, followed by his cousin, the twelve year old Prince Hisahito.

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