Japan’s emperor steps down from throne

Declaring his abdication in a historic ceremony at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo, Japan’s Emperor Akihito handed over the symbols of power and thanked the public for their support during his 30-year reign. The first Japanese monarch to stand down in more than 200 years, the 85-year-old was given permission to abdicate after saying he felt unable to fulfil his role because of his age and declining health. Crown Prince Naruhito, eldest son of Akihito, formally ascends the throne later on Wednesday. He will become Japan’s 126th emperor – and will officially lead the country into the new Reiwa era.

The abdication ceremony took place in a state room of the Imperial Palace in front of about 300 people including Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Crown Prince Naruhito, and Crown Princess Masako.

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The BBC reported that the 85-year-old, who had surgery for prostate cancer in 2003 and a heart bypass operation in 2012, said that he feared his age would make it hard for him to carry out his duties and strongly hinted that he wanted to stand down.

Japanese people mourn the handover. Many said they would miss the departing emperor, who will now hold the title “Joko”, which means “grand emperor” or “Emperor Emeritus”.

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