Emperor Akihito abdicates with prayer for peace as Heisei Era ends

On the last day of his 30-year reign, Emperor Akihito on Tuesday said he “sincerely thanks” the Japanese people for their support of him as the symbol of the state, paving the way for the nation’s first abdication in around 200 years and Crown Prince Naruhito’s accession to the Chrysanthemum Throne at midnight.

“Today, I am concluding my duties as the emperor,” he told a nationally televised ceremony marking his abdication.

“Since ascending the throne 30 years ago, I have performed my duties as the emperor with a deep sense of trust in and respect for the people, and I consider myself most fortunate to have been able to do so.

“I sincerely thank the people who accepted and supported me in my role as the symbol of the state,” he said, before closing his final remark as the emperor with a prayer for peace in times ahead.

“I pray, with all my heart, for peace and happiness for all the people in Japan and around the world.”

The outgoing emperor’s remark followed Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s statement announcing his abdication. Abe lauded the emperor for how he always “shared the joys and sorrows” of the people and gave them “courage and hope” by staying close to them in difficult times of natural disasters.

“Keeping in mind steps made by His Majesty, we will further strive to do our best to carve out Japan’s bright future full of peace and hope that we can be proud of,” Abe said.

The abdication by a living Japanese monarch was the first since 1817. Following Tuesday’s exit, Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko will now be officially referred to as the “emperor emeritus” and “empress emerita,” respectively.

The abdication in turn put an end to the 30-year run of the Heisei (Achieving Peace) imperial era, which began on Jan. 8, 1989, and ended as the clock hit midnight and entered the Reiwa (Beautiful Harmony) Era, opening a new chapter in its history under the reign of the new emperor.