Japan's much admired Emperor Akihito is set to abdicate on April 30, 2019, at age 85 in the first such departure from the Chrysanthemum Throne in about 200 years, the government said Friday. Akihito's elder son Crown Prince Naruhito will ascend the throne a day later, beginning a new era. The decision was made Friday at a meeting of the Imperial House Council, which was chaired by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and included parliamentary leaders, supreme court judges, and imperial family members, the AP reports. Akihito expressed his apparent wish to abdicate in August 2016, citing his age and health.
Authorities say the timing was chosen so that Akihito can abdicate after reaching his 30th anniversary on the throne, a milestone. 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. Naruhito will be 59 when he becomes emperor. Legislation allowing Akihito to abdicate within three years was enacted earlier this year. The legislation for Akihito's case was needed because the 1947 Imperial House Law does not provide for abdication. The last emperor to abdicate was Kokaku in 1817. (Princess Mako is planning to marry a commoner, meaning she will become one herself.)