Emperor Akihito will likely be sitting on the Chrysanthemum Throne a little longer than most expected.

Earlier this year, 83-year-old Emperor Akihito made known his intention to abdicate, stepping down from the largely ceremonial position he has held since 1989. Akihito will become the first emperor to abdicate the throne since Emperor Kokaku, who did so in in 1817, making him also the first Japanese monarch to abdicate since Japan’s feudal era ended.

Previously, there was no legal framework for such a transition (Akihito become emperor upon the death of his father, Hirohito), and the unprecedented-in-modern-times move required the drafting of new legislation governing the handover. Until recently, it was thought that Akihito would step down on April 1, 2019, which would coincide with the beginning of the Japanese fiscal year. However, it now seems like the emperor’s abdication will be pushed back.

The April 1 date falls close to scheduled nationwide local political elections, and some, including Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, feel it would be unseemly to mark the beginning of a new emperor’s era with the likely discord and disruptions that accompany and often linger after political contests. Because of that, an alternate abdication date of May 1, 2019 has been proposed.

The Imperial Council Household has announced plans to meet on the morning of December 1 for a conference in which it will decide between the April 1 and May 1 dates, though most political observers are predicting that the latter date will be chosen. In either case, though, it looks certain that Akihito’s successor, his son Naruhito, will ascend to the throne before the summer of 2019, thus officially bringing and end to the Heisei imperial era 30 years after its beginning.

Sources: Nihon Keizai Shimbun via Jin, Sankei News
Top image: Wikimedia Commons/William Ng