News we have been expecting for months finally arrived today: the Japanese government have decided that 83-year-old Emperor Akihito will abdicate in 2019.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced the decision shortly after a government and royal panel met to discuss the timing of the event earlier today. Earlier this year, laws were implemented into Japan’s legal system allowing for abdication, which was not legal prior to this.
Akihito will step down from his position as imperial leader of Japan on 30 April 2019, thus enabling him to celebrate 30 years on the throne before he steps down, and not interfere with the new year celebrations in the country. His son, Crown Prince Naruhito, will take to the Chrysanthemum throne; in 2019 he will turn 59-years-old.
The Emperor hinted at wishing to step down from his position last year, mentioning his age and health worries prevented him from fulfilling his duties. He has had heart surgery and was treated for prostate cancer, has been on the throne in Japan since the death of his father, Hirohito, in 1989.
This is the first abdication in over two centuries, and will mark the end of the Heisei era. Akihito will be the fourth royal Head of State to step down in recent years, following King Juan Carlos of Spain in 2014, King Albert of Belgium and Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands both in 2013, all in favour of their children, who were generally more popular than their parents.
A survey suggested that 85% of Japanese people believe abdication should be legalised, showing support for the ageing Emperor’s decision.
The recent engagement of Princess Mako, granddaughter of the Emperor through his younger son Prince Fumihito, also means she will be leaving the Imperial Family to marry a ‘commoner’; in 2015, it was revealed she had secretly completed her masters degree at Leicester University.