With the abdication of the Japanese Emperor Akihito (明仁) a Tenno retires for the first time in 212 years. His son Naruhito (徳仁) ascends the chrysanthemum throne and takes over the succession.
The Japanese Emperor Akihito abdicated after 30 years on the throne. At the beginning of the solemn ceremony in Tokyo, he announced his resignation to the gods in a religious ritual following the Shinto belief. It is the first time in about two centuries that a Japanese monarch renounced his job during his lifetime. Despite the wet and cold weather, hours before the abdication ceremony began, many onlookers waited in front of the imperial palace to watch the celebrations up close. On May 1st, Crown Prince Naruhito will ascend the imperial throne and take over the imperial insignia.
At the age of 85, the Emperor was probably at the limit of his physical capacity. Akihito had already announced his abdication in 2016 for health reasons and the parliament then passed a special law. In this way he wished to preserve the special closeness of the imperial household to the people, which he had achieved during his term of office.
He has managed, like hardly any other leading Japanese, to create popular closeness without being deprecative. Together with his wife, Empress Michiko, Akihito has always maintained the dignity of the office. He had succeeded in this closeness to the people, although Japan actually has a more distanced relationship to leaders than, for example, the British to the Queen.
The actual abdication took place at Matsu-no-Ma, a 370-square-meter hall in the Imperial Palace. More than 300 people took part in the ceremony, including members of the imperial family as well as representatives of Japan’s government and parliament, high-ranking judges and regional heads of government. The public remained excluded.
On May 1st, the Tenno’s rule, as the emperor is called in Japan, officially passes to Akihito’s 59-year-old son Naruhito. This ends an era: Akihito stands for Heisei (平成) era, which can be translated as “making peace”. Reiwa (令和) begins with his son, the era of “beautiful harmony”.