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Japanese Emperor Akihito announces abdication date
01 December 2017, 09:01 | Melissa Porter
Japan's Emperor Akihito right plans to abdicate on April 30 2019
It will be the first abdication of a Japanese emperor in around 200 years.
The 83-year-old emperor had said last year that his age and health would make it hard to fulfil his duties.
The council recommended that Emperor Akihito abdicate on April 30, 2019, in order to allow his oldest son to become emperor on the following day.
Mr Abe later met reporters briefly to announce that they had decided the emperor would step down on 30 April 2019.
Following the Emperor's rare video message aired in August 2016 in which he signaled his desire to retire, Japan's parliament enacted a law this June to allow Akihito to pass the Chrysanthemum Throne on to his 57-year-old son.
Japan's constitution defines the emperor as "the symbol of the state" and the position holds no political power.
Emperor Akihito, Hirohito's eldest son, has a strictly ceremonial role but is a respected and popular figure in Japan.
"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.
The government initially leaned toward setting the date of the emperor's abdication in December 2018 and starting the new gengo (era name) used in the Japanese calendar at the start of 2019, according to government sources.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga is expected to hold a press conference later on Friday to provide details of the meeting, The Japan Times reported. The last emperor to abdicate was Kokaku in 1817.
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.
Emperor Akihito is supposedly the 125th emperor of a hereditary lineage believed to stretch back more than 2,600 years, if legendary ones are included.
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