TOKYO – Japan’s Emperor Akihito on Saturday thanked the Japanese people for their understanding and efforts to facilitate his abdication, scheduled for April 2019.
Akihito addressed the people on the occasion of his 84th birthday in a speech from the balcony of the Imperial Palace, which was distributed by the Imperial Household Agency.
The Emperor directly addresses the nation on two occasions – on his birthday and on New Year’s day – every year from the residence of the royal family, during which the restricted palace garden is open to the public.
During his speech, he promised to continue to comply with his duties for the remainder of his term, after which he will be succeeded by his son and crown prince Naruhito.
Around 24,000 people gathered to hear the emperor’s address, a larger crowd compared to earlier occasions, according to state-owned NHK agency.
He rued that this year had been a sad one for the southern regions of the country, which bore the brunt of several typhoons, and wished a better and more prosperous 2018.
Akihito is scheduled to step down on April 30, 2019, nearly three years after announcing his wish to abdicate on grounds of poor health and an advanced age through a televised message.
To ensure his abdication, a special law was passed, given the event was unprecedented under the current constitution, besides several adjustments in the government calendar to facilitate the succession.