Emperor Akihito’s 30-year reign, known as the Heisei era, comes to a close.

Much like with other titles of nobility, the Emperor of Japan’s position is granted for life. However, on April 30, Emperor Akihito made the rare move of abdicating the throne, something that hasn’t happened in Japan since 202 years ago.

As such, for the first time in any current citizen’s lifetime, an abdication ceremony was held, taking place in the Matsu no Ma, or Pine Hall, of the Imperial Palace, which sits at the center of downtown Tokyo, surrounded by moats, gardens, and forested grounds.

▼ Emperor Akihito, delivering his last address as Emperor of Japan

Two of the Three Sacred Treasures, as the Japanese imperial regalia are called, were brought into the room (though within elegant cloth coverings, as the sacred items are only to be gazed upon by the emperor and the priests who convey them upon the monarch). Emperor Akihito and his wife of 60 years, Empress Michiko, stood on a dais in front of the assembled attendants, with other members of the royal family standing of to the side, as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe read a statement thanking the Emperor for his long service to the nation since the beginning of his reign in 1989. “Today, as you resign from your position, we look back on the years and see that at all times, you felt the same joys and sorrows as the people of Japan, and on this occasion we feel anew a deep respect and gratitude,” the politician said.

Emperor Akihito then spoke, making his final official statement to conclude his three decades as the symbol of Japan’s traditions and values.

“As of today, my position as emperor is ended.

I would like to express my sincere appreciation for the sentiments Mr. Abe spoke of, as a representative of the people of Japan.

I am happy that in the 30 years since my ascension, I have been able to perform my duties in such a way as to earn the deep trust and devotion of the people. From the bottom of my heart, I thank them for their acceptance of me as a symbol of Japan, and for their support.

Tomorrow, the new era, Reiwa, will begin, and both the Empress and I hope it will be one of peace and prosperity, and we pray for tranquility and happiness for our country and people around the world.”

Akihito’s son, Crown Prince Naruhito, will assume the position of emperor on May 1, whereupon Japan’s Reiwa era will officially begin.

Sources: NHK News Web (1, 2)
Top image: Pakutaso
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