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After Three Decades, Japanese Emperor Akihito Will Abdicate His Throne

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Japan
Japan's Emperor Akihito takes part in a ritual called Taiirei-Tojitsu-Kashikodokoro-Omae-no-gi, a ceremony for the Emperor to report the conduct of the abdication ceremony, at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo, Japan April 30, 2019. VOA

Japanese Emperor Akihito will abdicate on Tuesday in favor of his elder son, ending a three-decade reign during which he sought to ease the painful memories of World War Two and engage with people, including the marginalized in society.

The abdication, the first by a Japanese monarch in two centuries, will be marked by a brief and relatively simple ceremony in the Imperial Palace’s prestigious Matsu no ma, or Hall of Pine. About 300 people will attend and it will be broadcast live on television.

Akihito, 85, was the first Japanese monarch to take the throne under a post-war constitution that defines the emperor as a symbol of the people without political power.

His father, Hirohito, in whose name Japanese troops fought World War Two, was considered a living deity until after Japan’s defeat in 1945, when he renounced his divinity.

People raise hands as they shout 'banzai', or cheers, facing the Imperial Palace on the day of the Emperor Akihito's abdication in Tokyo, April 30, 2019.
People raise hands as they shout ‘banzai’, or cheers, facing the Imperial Palace on the day of the Emperor Akihito’s abdication in Tokyo, April 30, 2019. VOA

Akihito, together with Empress Michiko, his wife of 60 years and the first commoner to marry an imperial heir, carved out an active role as a symbol of reconciliation, peace and democracy.

“I think the emperor is loved by the people. His image is one of encouraging the people, such as after disasters, and being close to the people,” Morio Miyamoto, 48, said as he waited near a train station in western Tokyo.

“I hope the next emperor will, like the Heisei emperor, be close to the people in the same way,” he said.

Akihito, who has had treatment for prostate cancer and heart surgery, said in a televised address in 2016 that he feared his age would make it hard for him to carry out his duties fully.

‘Sacred treasures’

Akihito will report his abdication on Tuesday morning at sanctuaries inside the Imperial Palace grounds, one honoring the sun goddess Amaterasu Omikami, from whom mythology says the imperial line is descended, and two others honoring departed emperors and Shinto gods.

The abdication ceremony will take place in the afternoon with attendees including Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Empress Michiko, Crown Prince Naruhito and Crown Princess Masako, as well as the heads of both houses of parliament and Supreme Court justices.

Imperial chamberlains will carry state and privy seals into the room along with two of Japan’s “Three Sacred Treasures” — a sword and a jewel — which together with a mirror are symbols of the throne. They are said to originate in ancient mythology. Abe will announce the abdication and Akihito will make his final remarks as emperor.

Naruhito, 59, will become emperor in separate ceremonies on Wednesday. Naruhito, who studied at Oxford, is likely to continue an active role and together with Harvard-educated Masako give the monarchy a cosmopolitan tinge.

FILE - Japan's Emperor Akihito, flanked by Imperial Household Agency officials carrying two of the so-called Three Sacred Treasures of Japan, leaves the main sanctuary as he visits the Inner shrine of the Ise Jingu shrine, ahead of his April 30, 2019 abdication.
Japan’s Emperor Akihito, flanked by Imperial Household Agency officials carrying two of the so-called Three Sacred Treasures of Japan, leaves the main sanctuary as he visits the Inner shrine of the Ise Jingu shrine, ahead of his April 30, 2019 abdication. VOA

Police have tightened security near the Imperial Palace, a 115-hectare site that is home to the emperor and empress in the heart of Tokyo. Media said several thousand police officers were being mobilized in the capital over the next few days.

Tuesday marks the last day of the Heisei imperial era, which began on Jan. 8, 1989, after Akihito inherited the throne. The era saw economic stagnation, natural disasters and rapid technological change.

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Akihito officially remains emperor until midnight, when the new Reiwa era, meaning “beautiful harmony,” begins.

Japanese traditionally refer to the date by the era name, or “gengo,” a system originally imported from China, on documents, calendars and coins but many people also use the Western calendar. (VOA)

Next Story

In a Sudden Move, Malaysia’s King Abdicates Throne

The Council of Rulers is expected to meet soon to pick the next king.

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Malaysia
Malaysia King Sultan Muhammad V salutes during the national anthem at the opening of the 14th parliament session at the Parliament house in Kuala Lumpur, July 17, 2018. VOA

Malaysian King Sultan Muhammad V abdicated on Sunday in an unexpected move, after just two years on the throne.

The palace said in a statement that the 49-year-old ruler had resigned as Malaysia’s 15th king with immediate effect, cutting short his five-year term. No reason was given in the statement.

It marked the first abdication in the nation’s history.

Sultan Muhammad V, ruler of northeast Kelantan state, took his oath of office in December 2016, becoming one of Malaysia’s youngest constitutional monarchs.

Malaysia King
Malaysia’s King Sultan Muhammad V at the Trooping of Colours ceremony.

He is said to have married a 25-year-old former Russian beauty queen in November while on a two-month medical leave. Reports in Russian and British media and on social media featured pictures of the wedding, which reportedly took place in Moscow. Neither the sultan, the palace nor the government had officially confirmed the wedding.

Speculation that Sultan Muhammad V would step down emerged this past week, shortly after he returned from his leave, but Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said Friday that he was unaware of any abdication plans.

Also Read: Muslims in Malaysia Rally In Kuala Lumpur To Keep Status

Under a unique system maintained since Malaysia’s independence from Britain in 1957, nine hereditary state rulers take turns as the country’s king for five-year terms.

The Council of Rulers is expected to meet soon to pick the next king.

The monarch’s role is largely ceremonial, since administrative power is vested in the prime minister and parliament. But the monarch is highly regarded, particularly among the ethnic Malay Muslim majority, as the supreme upholder of Malay tradition. (VOA)