Japan Emperor steps down

In his last public address as emperor, Akihito handed over the symbols of power and thanked the public for their support during his 30-year reign. The 85-year-old was given permission to abdicate after saying he felt unable to fulfill his role because of his age and declining health.

He is the first Japanese monarch to stand down in more than 200 years. His eldest son, Crown Prince Naruhito, will ascend the throne later on Wednesday. He will be 126th monarch of the country.The main “Ceremony of the Abdication” took place in a state room of the Imperial Palace in front of about 300 dignitaries including Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Crown Prince Naruhito, and Crown Princess Masako.

In the short ceremony, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe addressed the emperor, saying: “While keeping in our hearts the path that the emperor has walked, we will make utmost efforts to create a bright future for a proud Japan that is full of peace and hope.Then in his final speech emperor Akihito, wearing a Western-style morning coat, said he “wished Japan and the world peace and prosperity”.

Japan has the oldest continuing hereditary monarchy in the world. Legends date it back to about 600 BC .The emperors used to be seen as gods, but Hirohito – the father of Akihito – publicly renounced his divinity as part of Japan’s surrender at the end of World War Two. It was Emperor Akihito who helped repair Japan’s post-war reputation. The public has deep respect and utmost regard for him.

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