On January 7 of 1989, upon the death of his father Hirohito, then-Crown Prince Akihito became Emperor of Japan, the 125th of a traditionally unbroken dynasty that began according to legend more than 2,000 years before the birth of Christ. He was considered suitably prepared for his ascension. The Japanese people were endeared to him when he married a commoner, his Empress Michiko. The economy of his country at the time was also strong, a worthy inheritance. On the last day of April 2019, after a 31-year reign, Emperor Akihito can retire as he desired, as he begins his ceremonial abdication to his son Naruhito.
CNN reports that as of Tuesday, April 30, the ceremonial procedures for the 85-year-old Emperor Akihito of Japan has begun. This is the scheduled last day of his period of reign which was titled the Heisei Era, with the reign of his son and heir Naruhito set to begin the following day, May 1. But first, the current Emperor must first perform the Taiirei-Seiden-no-gi, a ritual announcement of his resignation from the Chrysanthemum Throne of Japan, at which point he will receive an audience of representatives from his government and the people one last time in his dignity as monarch.
For Akihito this has been too long a time coming. Medical complications coming with the ravages of his advancing age had spurred him to actively seek a means to step down as Emperor. This was not provided for in the Imperial Household Law which governs how imperial transitions work. Public outcry for his well-being on account of his public address led the Japanese government to issue a one-off bill that would allow him to abdicate to his son. Upon Naruhito becoming Emperor, Hirohito will be known as a Daijo Tenno/Joko, or “retired emperor,” the first for Japan in two centuries.
Born in 1933, Akihito was still a child when the defeat of expansionist Japan in World War II saw the Imperial Family lose fortune, political power and even the traditional reverence of divinity. Growing up he was seized with a vision of bringing the Emperor’s household closer to the people. His 1959 “love match” marriage to commoner Michiko Shoda, whom he famously first met at a tennis court, was a step in that direction. Akihito got to demonstrate validity in his intent to be the “people’s Emperor” when he and Empress Michiko visited refugees of the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami, something the beneficiaries treasured.
Once the pertinent ceremonies of the day are concluded at the end of April, Akihito will be considered retired and the Heisei Era at an end. Naruhito will be acclaimed as Emperor the next day, beginning his reign era of Reiwa, with a formal enthronement ceremony scheduled for October 22.
Image courtesy of The Mainichi