The Latest: Japan PM Abe thanks Akihito on behalf of people

Japan's Emperor Akihito speaks during the ceremony of his abdication in front of other members of the royal families and top government officials at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo, Tuesday, April 30, 2019. The 85-year-old Akihito ends his three-decade reign on Tuesday as his son Crown Prince Naruhito, left, will ascend the Chrysanthemum throne on Wednesday. (Japan Pool via AP)
Japan's Emperor Akihito hands over his statement to the grand chamberlain after speaking to other members of the royal families and top government officials during the ceremony of his abdication at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo, Tuesday, April 30, 2019. The 85-year-old Akihito ends his three-decade reign on Tuesday as his son Crown Prince Naruhito will ascend the Chrysanthemum throne on Wednesday. (Japan Pool via AP)
People gather near Imperial Palace in Tokyo Tuesday, April 30, 2019. Japan's Emperor Akihito announced that he is abdicating as of Tuesday at a ceremony, in his final official address to his people. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)
Hitoshi Sato, a university official, with a sign reading "Heisei, Thank you" poses for a photo taken by his wife Yang Shufeng, from Taiwan, in front of Imperial Palace in Tokyo Tuesday, April 30, 2019. Japan's Emperor Akihito is set to abdicate later in the day as Japan embraces the end of his reign with an emotion mixed with reminiscence and hopes for a new era. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)
People gather near Imperial Palace in Tokyo Tuesday, April 30, 2019. Japan's Emperor Akihito announced that he is abdicating as of Tuesday at a ceremony, in his final official address to his people. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)
Japan's Crown Prince Naruhito, second from left, and Crown Princess Masako, left, listen to Emperor Akihito speak during the ceremony of Akihito's abdication at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo, Tuesday, April 30, 2019. The 85-year-old Akihito ends his three-decade reign on Tuesday as his son Naruhito will ascend the Chrysanthemum throne on Wednesday. (Japan Pool via AP)
Japan's Emperor Akihito, left, accompanied by Empress Michiko, attends the ceremony of his abdication in front of other members of the royal families and top government officials at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo, Tuesday, April 30, 2019. The 85-year-old Akihito ends his three-decade reign on Tuesday as his son Crown Prince Naruhito will ascend the Chrysanthemum throne on Wednesday. (Japan Pool via AP)
Japan's Emperor Akihito hands over his statement to the grand chamberlain after speaking to other members of the royal families and top government officials during the ceremony of his abdication at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo, Tuesday, April 30, 2019. The 85-year-old Akihito ends his three-decade reign on Tuesday as his son Crown Prince Naruhito will ascend the Chrysanthemum throne on Wednesday. (Japan Pool via AP)

TOKYO — The Latest on Japanese Emperor Akihito's abdication (all times local):

6:10 p.m.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, representing the people at Emperor Akihito's abdication ceremony, thanked the outgoing emperor for seeking peace and happiness for his people and for reaching out to them in times of difficulty.

Abe said the emperor always shared the people's happiness and hardship.

Akihito's reign runs through midnight Tuesday, when his son, Crown Prince Naruhito, becomes the new emperor.

Abe and his ultra-conservative supporters, who seek to expand Japan's military role, have sometimes seemed irked by Akihito's repeated reminders of Japan's wartime past.

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6 p.m.

Japan's Emperor Akihito has expressed his wishes that the new era of his son, Emperor-to-be Naruhito, brings "peace and happiness" to people in Japan and around the world.

Akihito announced Tuesday that he is abdicating, handing the Chrysanthemum throne to Crown Prince Naruhito. Naruhito's new era of Reiwa, which means beautiful harmony, begins at midnight Tuesday.

Akihito's era is first in Japan's modern history to end free of war. He devoted his life to atone for a war fought in his father's name.

Akihito said he wishes that the new era "will be a stable and fruitful one, and I pray, with all my heart, for peace and happiness for all the people in Japan and around the world.

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5:15 p.m.

Japan's Emperor Akihito has announced at a ceremony that he is abdicating, in his final official address to his people.

In the ceremony at the palace on Tuesday, Akihito also thanked his people for their support during his 30-year reign as emperor.

He said it was fortunate for him that he could fulfil his duties with full trust and faith in his people.

Akihito's reign ends at midnight Tuesday, after which his son, Crown Prince Naruhito, ascends the throne as new emperor.

Naruhito's ascension will be formalized at a separate ceremony on Wednesday.

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5 p.m.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has sent a message to the outgoing Japanese emperor to thank him for his contribution to better ties between the two nations.

Putin said in the message quoted by the Kremlin press office on Tuesday that he is "sincerely grateful" for Emperor Akihito's attention to Russian-Japanese relations that "saw a significant improvement during your reign."

Putin also wished Akihito and his family good health and well-being.

Akihito on Tuesday held his abdication rituals. His reign runs through midnight, when his son Crown Prince Naruhito becomes the new emperor.

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4:30 p.m.

Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga noted that Emperor Akihito's era ending free of war is what the Japanese wanted.

Suga told reporters Tuesday after a Cabinet meeting endorsed Akihito's abdication speech, expressed his appreciation to the emperor for his steady effort of reaching out and standing by the people during his 30-year reign.

Suga said, "I renew my gratitude to the emperor and the empress from the bottom of my heart."

He hoped the new era of emperor-to-be Naruhito will also be the time when each of his people can "make their flowers of hope bloom." He said the government will do utmost to achieve such a society.

Akihito will make his final address at an abdication ceremony later Tuesday. His son Naruhito will ascend the Chrysanthemum Throne on Wednesday.

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3:45 p.m.

Japanese people are visiting shrines and temples and eating dinners marking the end of the Heisei era as Emperor Akihito abdicates.

Akihito visited a shrine to report his retirement to Shinto gods in a morning ritual and later Tuesday will announce his retirement to the royal family and top government officials.

Akihito's reign runs through midnight when his son Crown Prince Naruhito becomes emperor and his era begins.

People who visited shrines and temples on Tuesday received stamps dated the last day of the Heisei era, referring to his three-decade reign. Amusement parks and some shops offered free admission and special deals and customers at restaurants ate their last Heisei meals.

Heisei means "achieving peace," and the name of Naruhito's era beginning Wednesday is Reiwa, or "beautiful harmony."

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3:15 p.m.

South Korea says President Moon Jae-in has sent a letter to outgoing Japanese Emperor Akihito, expressing gratitude for what Moon described as positive contributions to peace and bilateral relations between Seoul and Tokyo.

South Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman Kim In-chul on Tuesday said the Seoul government also congratulates Japanese Crown Prince Naruhito, who on Wednesday will officially become the new Japanese emperor. Kim says the Seoul government will consider sending a delegation to Japan in October when the country plans to hold a coronation ceremony with foreign guests.

Relations between South Korean and Japan have recently sunk to their worst level in recent years over compensation issues related to the Japanese army's sexual abuse of "comfort women" and forced labor by Koreans during Japan's colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula from 1910 through 1945.

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10:20 a.m.

Emperor Akihito has begun his abdication rituals as Japan embraces the end of his reign with reminiscence and hope for a new era.

TV footage Tuesday morning showed Akihito entering a shrine to report his retirement to Shinto gods. Only part of the ritual was released to the public. In a palace ritual later in the day, he will announce his retirement before other members of the royal family and top government officials.

Akihito's reign runs through midnight when his son Crown Prince Naruhito becomes emperor and his era begins.

Akihito has devoted his career to make amends for the victims of a war fought in his father's name, while bringing the aloof monarchy closer to the people.

Naruhito will ascend the Chrysanthemum throne in a separate ceremony on Wednesday.

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