Japan's Emperor Akihito to abdicate the throne in 2019 at the age of 85: Monarch will be the first to step down in 200 years when he makes way for his son, 57

  • Emperor Akihito plans to abdicate on April 30, 2019, the government revealed
  • Akihito's elder son Crown Prince Naruhito will ascend the throne a day later?
  • Is the first such abdication from the Chrysanthemum Throne in about 200 years
  • ?The decision was made Friday at a meeting of the Imperial House Council
  • Akihito expressed his wish to abdicate in 2016, citing his age and health

Japan's admired Emperor Akihito plans to abdicate in April 2019 in a move that will see him become the first to do so in more than 200 years, the country's government has said.?

Akihito's elder son Crown Prince Naruhito, 57, will ascend the throne a day later, on May 1, 2019, beginning a new as yet unnamed era.

The decision was made today at a meeting of the Imperial House Council, which included politicians, judicial officials and imperial family members.

Japan's much admired Emperor Akihito (right) plans to abdicate on April 30, 2019. His son Crown Prince Naruhito (left) will then ascend the throne. The pair are pictured together in January 2016?

Japan's much admired Emperor Akihito (right) plans to abdicate on April 30, 2019. His son Crown Prince Naruhito (left) will then ascend the throne. The pair are pictured together in January 2016?

Successor Naruhito (right) and Crown Princess Masako wave to Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko leaving Tokyo International Airport for Vietnam in February 2017

Successor Naruhito (right) and Crown Princess Masako wave to Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko leaving Tokyo International Airport for Vietnam in February 2017

Akihito (pictured in November) was 56 years old when he ascended the throne in January 1989 after the death of his father, Emperor Hirohito, beginning the Heisei Era. Naruhito will be 59 when he becomes emperor

Akihito (pictured in November) was 56 years old when he ascended the throne in January 1989 after the death of his father, Emperor Hirohito, beginning the Heisei Era. Naruhito will be 59 when he becomes emperor

Japan's Emperor Akihito waves to well-wishers from the palace balcony during a New Year's public appearance in 2017. He will be the first Emperor to abdicate in 200 years `

Japan's Emperor Akihito waves to well-wishers from the palace balcony during a New Year's public appearance in 2017. He will be the first Emperor to abdicate in 200 years `

Akihito, 83, expressed his apparent wish to step down in 2016, citing his age and health.

However post-war legislation had not allowed for abdication, so a one-off law was adopted in June to accommodate the emperor's wishes.

Formal Cabinet approval for the formal date for the process is due on December 8, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters on Friday.

He added: 'I feel deeply moved that the decision was made by the Imperial Household Agency making a major step toward an imperial succession.'

The last Japanese emperor to step down was Kokaku, who did so in favour of his son Ninko in 1817.

Akihito's desire to leave the throne has revived a debate about the country's 2,000-year-old monarchy, one of the world's oldest, and has fuelled discussion about improving the status of female members of the shrinking royal population.

The current male-only succession rules prohibit women from succeeding to the throne and female members lose their royal status when they marry a commoner.?

It means that, as it stands, Naruhito's only child, Princess Aiko, 16, will not be able to inherit the throne after her father.

Instead, Naruhito's younger brother Prince Fumihito will become crown prince following Akihito's abdication with his son, Prince Hisahito, 11, then in line to succeed him.??

Japanese politicians, judicial officials and members of the imperial family attend a meeting to discuss the issues related to the abdication at the Imperial Household Agency in Tokyo earlier today

Japanese politicians, judicial officials and members of the imperial family attend a meeting to discuss the issues related to the abdication at the Imperial Household Agency in Tokyo earlier today

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, pictured arriving at the abdication meeting said formal cabinet approval of the decision is due on December 8

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, pictured arriving at the abdication meeting said formal cabinet approval of the decision is due on December 8

Akihito was 56 years old when he ascended the throne in January 1989 after the death of his father, Emperor Hirohito, beginning the Heisei Era. Naruhito will be 59 when he becomes emperor.

The Emperor and his wife Empress Michiko, who was born a commoner, are an elegant, stately pair often seen making visits to disaster victims and carrying out other official duties.?

They have also spent much time trying to address the legacy of World War Two, which was fought in the name of Hirohito.

Akihito and Michiko are widely respected by the Japanese public.?

'Akihito redefined the job. He wanted to modernise the monarchy and take care of the unfinished business ... and bring the imperial household closer to the people,' said Jeffrey Kingston, director of Asian studies at Japan's Temple University. 'He's been remarkably successful on all fronts.?

'He is deeply admired and respected. His moral authority is unquestioned.'?

Akihito pictured with his wife Empress Michiko at the Imperial Palace in 2002. ?The pair are?often seen making visits to disaster victims and carrying out other official duties

Akihito pictured with his wife Empress Michiko at the Imperial Palace in 2002. ?The pair are?often seen making visits to disaster victims and carrying out other official duties

Akihito meets Theresa May during the Prime Minister's visit to Japan in September this year

Akihito meets Theresa May during the Prime Minister's visit to Japan in September this year

Then US President Barack Obama bows as he greets Emporer Akihito and Michiko at the Imperial Palace in 2009

Then US President Barack Obama bows as he greets Emporer Akihito and Michiko at the Imperial Palace in 2009

Akihito and Michiko are greeted by Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace in 2007

Akihito and Michiko are greeted by Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace in 2007

Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher talks with Akihito and Michiko at the Imperial Palace shortly after the Emperor's ascension to the Japanese throne in 1989

Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher talks with Akihito and Michiko at the Imperial Palace shortly after the Emperor's ascension to the Japanese throne in 1989

Akihito shares a drink with Bill Clinton during the former US president's visit to Japan in 1996

Akihito shares a drink with Bill Clinton during the former US president's visit to Japan in 1996

One of the Emperor's subjects, Taeko Ito, 72, who works as a caregiver, said: 'Both the Emperor and Empress thought tirelessly about the people.

'Now he is elderly and I wish from my heart that he can have a rest.'

Akihito and Michiko, who is the first commoner to wed a Japanese monarch, have worked to reconcile ties across Asia, soured by Japan's aggression before and during World War Two, with numerous visits abroad.

In 1992, the Emperor became the first Japanese monarch in living memory to visit China, where bitter memories of the war run deep.?

During that visit he said he 'deeply deplored' an 'unfortunate period in which my country inflicted great suffering on the people of China'.

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