First abdication of Japanese emperor in 200 years
April 30, 2019 -- Japan’s Emperor Akihito becomes the first emperor to abdicate in 200 years, passing the Chrysanthemum Throne to his son Crown Prince Naruhito.
The 83-year-old emperor has been on the throne since the death of his father, Hirohito, in 1989. He has had heart surgery and prostate cancer, and cited age and ill health when he announced his decision to stand down.
Japanese law doesn’t provide for abdication; emperors, considered spiritually immortal, are expected to serve until death. Akihito’s decision required the government to enact a bill that allowed him to step down.
Akihito enjoys a popularity in Japan stemming from his ability to abandon the traditional formality of his Imperial role and demonstrate empathy with the common people. This was particularly evident when Japan was hit by the 2011 tsunami that killed thousands and left tens of thousands homeless.