Japan's Emperor Akihito to abdicate on April 30, 2019

A staff of a Japanese news paper distributes an extra edition of a newspaper reporting about Emperor Akihito to abdicate date, at Shimbashi Station in Tokyo Friday, Dec. 1, 2017. Japan's much admired Emperor Akihito plans to abdicate on April 30, 2019, at age 85 in the first such abdication from the Chrysanthemum Throne in about 200 years, the government said Friday. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)
FILE - In this June 19, 2012 file photo, Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko leave after praying at the altar of the late Prince Tomohito, in Tokyo. Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Emperor Akihito plans to abdicate on April 30, 2019, in the first such abdication in about 200 years. The emperor will be 85 by then and has cited his age as a concern. Akihito's elder son Crown Prince Naruhito will ascend the throne a day later, on May 1, 2019, beginning a new era. (AP Photo/Itsuo Inouye, File)
Japan's Prince Hitachi, right, and Princess Hanako attend a meeting of the Imperial Household Council to discuss the issues related to the abdication of Japan's Emperor Akihito at the Imperial Household Agency in Tokyo, Japan Friday, Dec. 1, 2017. (Toru Hanai/Pool Photo via AP)
A staff of a Japanese news paper distributes an extra edition of a newspaper reporting about Emperor Akihito to abdicate date, at Shimbashi Station in Tokyo Friday, Dec. 1, 2017. Japan's much admired Emperor Akihito plans to abdicate on April 30, 2019, at age 85 in the first such abdication from the Chrysanthemum Throne in about 200 years, the government said Friday. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)
FILE - In this Jan. 2, 2017, file photo, Japan's Emperor Akihito waves to well-wishers from the palace balcony during a New Year's public appearance with his family members at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo. Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe says Friday, Dec. 1, 2017, Emperor Akihito will abdicate on April 30, 2019, at age 85 . (AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi, File)
A staff of a Japanese news paper distributes an extra edition of a newspaper reporting about Emperor Akihito to abdicate date, at Shimbashi Station in Tokyo Friday, Dec. 1, 2017. Japan's much admired Emperor Akihito plans to abdicate on April 30, 2019, at age 85 in the first such abdication from the Chrysanthemum Throne in about 200 years, the government said Friday. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)
Japan's Prince Hitachi attends a meeting of the Imperial Household Council to discuss on the issues related to the abdication of Japan's Emperor Akihito at the Imperial Household Agency in Tokyo, Japan Friday, Dec. 1, 2017. (Toru Hanai/Pool Photo via AP)
Clockwise from top, Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, House of Representatives speaker Tadamori Oshima, House of Councillors speaker Chuichi Date, House of Representatives vice-speaker Hirotaka Akamatsu, House of Councillors vice-speaker Akira Gunji, Imperial Household Agency chief Shinichiro Yamamoto, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, Supreme Court judge Kiyoko Okabe, Supreme Court Chief Justice Itsuro Terada, Princess Hanako and Prince Hitachi attend a meeting of the Imperial Household Council to discuss the issues related to the abdication of Japan's Emperor Akihito at the Imperial Household Agency in Tokyo, Japan Friday, Dec. 1, 2017. (Toru Hanai/Pool Photo via AP)
Clockwise from top, Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, House of Representatives speaker Tadamori Oshima, House of Councillors speaker Chuichi Date, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, Princess Hanako and Prince Hitachi attend a meeting of the Imperial Household Council to discuss the issues related to the abdication of Japan's Emperor Akihito at the Imperial Household Agency in Tokyo, Japan Friday, Dec. 1, 2017. (Toru Hanai/Pool Photo via AP)
Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, clockwise from top, House of Representatives speaker Tadamori Oshima, House of Councillors speaker Chuichi Date, House of Representatives vice-speaker Hirotaka Akamatsu, House of Councillors vice-speaker Akira Gunji, Imperial Household Agency chief Shinichiro Yamamoto, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, Supreme Court judge Kiyoko Okabe, Supreme Court Chief Justice Itsuro Terada, Princess Hanako and Prince Hitachi attend a meeting of the Imperial Household Council to discuss the issues related to the abdication of Japan's Emperor Akihito at the Imperial Household Agency in Tokyo, Japan Friday, Dec. 1, 2017. Japan's much admired Emperor Akihito plans to abdicate on April 30, 2019, at age 85 in the first such abdication from the Chrysanthemum Throne in about 200 years, the government said Friday. Akihito's elder son Crown Prince Naruhito will ascend the throne a day later, on May 1, 2019, beginning a new as yet unnamed era. (Toru Hanai/Pool Photo via AP)
Passers-by read an extra edition of a newspaper reporting about Emperor Akihito to abdicate date, at Shimbashi Station in Tokyo Friday, Dec. 1, 2017. Japan's much admired Emperor Akihito plans to abdicate on April 30, 2019, at age 85 in the first such abdication from the Chrysanthemum Throne in about 200 years, the government said Friday. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)
FILE - In this Jan. 26, 2016, file photo, Japan's Emperor Akihito, right, and Crown Prince Naruhito, left, walk at Haneda international airport in Tokyo. Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Friday, Dec. 1, 2017, Emperor Akihito plans to abdicate on April 30, 2019, in the first such abdication in about 200 years. The emperor will be 85 by then.(AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko, File)
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe arrives at the Imperial Palace to attend a meeting of the Imperial Household Council in Tokyo Friday, Dec. 1, 2017. The Imperial household meeting is held to discuss the issues related to Emperor Akihito’s abdication. (Toru Yamanaka/Pool Photo via AP)
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe arrives at the Imperial Palace to attend a meeting of the Imperial Household Council in Tokyo Friday, Dec. 1, 2017. The Imperial household meeting is held to discuss on the issues related to Emperor Akihito’s abdication. (Toru Yamanaka/Pool Photo via AP)
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe arrives at the Imperial Palace to attend a meeting of the Imperial Household Council in Tokyo Friday, Dec. 1, 2017. The Imperial household meeting is held to discuss on the issues related to Emperor Akihito’s abdication. (Toru Yamanaka/Pool Photo via AP)
A staff of a Japanese news paper distributes an extra edition of a newspaper reporting about Emperor Akihito to abdicate date, at Shimbashi Station in Tokyo Friday, Dec. 1, 2017. Japan's much admired Emperor Akihito plans to abdicate on April 30, 2019, at age 85 in the first such abdication from the Chrysanthemum Throne in about 200 years, the government said Friday. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)
Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe attends a meeting of the Imperial Household Council to discuss on the issues related to the abdication of Japan's Emperor Akihito at the Imperial Household Agency in Tokyo, Japan Friday, Dec. 1, 2017. (Toru Hanai/Pool Photo via AP)

TOKYO — Japan's much admired Emperor Akihito is set to abdicate on April 30, 2019, at age 85 in the first such departure from the Chrysanthemum Throne in about 200 years, the government said Friday.

Akihito's elder son Crown Prince Naruhito will ascend the throne a day later, beginning a new as yet unnamed era.

The decision was made Friday at a meeting of the Imperial House Council, which was chaired by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and included parliamentary leaders, supreme court judges and imperial family members.

Akihito expressed his apparent wish to abdicate in August 2016, citing his age and health.

Abe will provide the summary of the meeting at the next Cabinet session early next week ahead of the formal approval expected on Dec. 8, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters.

"I feel deeply moved that the decision was made smoothly by the Imperial House Council, marking a major step toward an imperial succession," Abe said.

Suga said the timing was chosen so that Akihito can abdicate after reaching his 30th anniversary on the throne, a milestone. Late April is also more appropriate for many Japanese to embrace the change of an era after settling down from a busy period of travel and job transfers around April 1, the beginning of a new fiscal year.

The events also mean longer Golden Week holidays — up to 10 straight days for those who can take May 2 off.

Legislation allowing Akihito to abdicate within three years was enacted earlier this year.

There will be more preparations to come, including deciding a new era name and a new home for the emperor and the empress, Suga said.

"We would like everyone to celebrate an abdication of the emperor and succession of the crown prince," he said.

Akihito's desire to leave the throne revived a debate about the country's 2,000-year-old monarchy, one of the world's oldest, as well as discussion about improving the status of female members of the shrinking royal population. The current male-only succession rules prohibit women from succeeding to the Chrysanthemum Throne and female members lose their royal status when they marry a commoner.

Akihito was 56 years old when he ascended the throne in January 1989 after the death of his father, Emperor Hirohito, beginning the Heisei Era. Naruhito will be 59 when he becomes emperor.

Naruhito has no son, and only two other men — his younger brother Akishino and his son — are left as eligible successors.

On Friday, Naruhito's only child, Princess Aiko, turned 16 — the age women are allowed to marry under Japan's constitution. One of Akishino's two adult daughters is marrying a commoner next year, when the royal family would lose all three female members of the younger generation unless the law is revised. Conservative lawmakers oppose allowing female royals to succeed the throne or head the household.

The emperor and his wife, Empress Michiko, who was born a commoner, are an elegant, stately pair often seen making visits to disaster victims and carrying out other official duties.

The legislation for Akihito's case was needed because the 1947 Imperial House Law does not provide for abdication. The last emperor to abdicate was Kokaku in 1817.

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Find her work also on APNews at https://www.apnews.com/search/mari%20yamaguchi

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