Japan’s Emperor Akihito has announced his abdication, making him the first emperor in the history of the country to do in over two centuries. The ruler said his advanced age and failing health was preventing him from discharging his duties effectively, hence his decision to retire.
This marks the end of what is being described in Japanese custom as the Heisei era, the period of Akihito’s rule spanning three decades. He is being succeeded by his son, Crown Prince Naruhito, 59, who will take on the role of the 126th emperor of the country. Officially, Naruhito will assume charge from Wednesday, which will also serve as the beginning of the Reiwa era.
Akihito handed over the reins in a historic ceremony at the Matsu-no-Ma state room of the Imperial Palace. A small gathering attended the event while several more well wishers, both domestic as well as from overseas waited outside. Among those who attended the short event included the Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
The emperor in Japans holds no public office as such and has no political role either. Still, the ruler is seen with a lot of respect and is considered a national status. Akihito too was and still is held in high esteem owing much to his desire to share the people’s stress and tribulations. He made it a point to interact with the commoners regularly and had personally visited those affected by the mega Tsunami of 2011.
No wonder, Akihito will be remembered for long even after his rule ends while the mantle passes on to his son Naruhito.