Emperor Akihito will become first Japanese monarch to abdicate in 200 years

Emperor Akihito will become first Japanese monarch to abdicate in 200 years

Emperor Akihito, who has spent much of his almost three decades on Japan's throne seeking to soothe the wounds of WWII, will step down on April 30, 2019 - the first abdication by a Japanese monarch in about two centuries.

Akihito, who has had heart surgery and treatment for prostate cancer, said in rare remarks a year ago that he feared age might make it hard to fulfill his duties.

Japan's parliament enacted in June a law to allow the emperor to pass the Chrysanthemum throne on to his 57-year-old elder son.

Akihito has two sons - Crown Prince Naruhito and Akishino - who are first and second in line to become Japan's emperor under male-only succession system. As the law requires the prime minister to hear opinions from the 10-member Imperial House Council before deciding the abdication date by an ordinance, the panel met Friday to discuss the date for his abdication.

Under the postwar Constitution in Japan, the emperor, once considered divine, is defined as "the symbol of the state" with no political power.

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Emperor Akihito is presently undergoing a prostrate cancer treatment.

The Cabinet still has to sign off on the decision on the date, which it will likely do next week.

"This is the first abdication by an emperor in 200 years and the first under the (post-war) constitution", Abe told reporters after announcing the results of the panel's discussion. The era of the reign of the new Emperor would start on 1 may.

Akihito, along with Empress Michiko, has spent much of his time on the throne trying to address the legacy of World War Two, which was fought in his father Hirohito's name, and consoling victims of disasters or other woes. Naruhito's daughter, Princess Aiko, who turns 16 on Friday, can not inherit the males-only throne.

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