Japanese Emperor Akihito announced his abdication at a palace ceremony Tuesday in his final address, as the nation embraced the end of his reign with reminiscence and hope for a new era. "Today, I am concluding my duties as the emperor," Akihito said as he stood in front of the throne, as other members of the royal family and top government officials watched. In the ceremony, Akihito thanked his people for their support during his 30-year reign as emperor. He said it was fortunate for him that he could fulfill his duties with full trust and faith in his people, the AP reports. Akihito's reign ends at midnight Tuesday, after which his son, Crown Prince Naruhito, ascends the throne as new emperor.
Many people gathered outside the palace compound hours before the abdication ceremony despite unseasonably wet and cold weather, and even though they are not allowed to look inside. Security was extremely tight around the palace and across downtown Tokyo with thousands of police mobilized. Akihito, 85, took the throne in 1989 and devoted his career to making amends for a war fought in his father's name while bringing the aloof monarchy closer to the people. Naruhito will ascend the Chrysanthemum Throne on Wednesday. In a separate ceremony he will receive the imperial regalia of sword and jewel as well as imperial seals as proof of his succession as the nation's 126th emperor, according to the official palace count. (Japan is getting a 10-day vacation to mark the new era.)