TOKYO – Japan’s Emperor Akihito took part in Shinto rituals ahead of his abdication on Tuesday, the first time a living monarch will cede the Chrysanthemum Throne in over 200 years.
The 85-year-old, dressed in traditional garments based on a ninth century design, participated in several private rituals at Shinto temples within the Imperial Palace complex to pay respects to the Sun Goddess, the souls of his ancestors, and several deities, state-run NHK agency reported.
The outfit was made up of various gowns and capes and covered with a cinnamon-hued kimono, a color which only the emperor is allowed to wear, according to Japanese imperial tradition.
Akihito, who was known for his numerous interactions with victims of disease or natural disasters, has been allowed to abdicate after he said in 2016 that he felt he could not longer fulfill his duties due to his advanced age and ailing health.
Although there was no legal framework to allow for a living monarch to abdicate, his popularity triggered a wave of sympathy from the Japanese population, leading to the Diet (the parliament) to pass a law permitting him to step down from the throne he has occupied since the death of his father in 1989.
The abdication ceremony, known as the ‘Taiirei-Seiden-nogi’ and which is due to last around 10 minutes, will be held on Tuesday evening at the palace. As the office of emperor holds no political power, prime minister Shinzo Abe will confirm the abdication, in accordance with the law that was specially approved for the occasion.
Akihito will technically remain emperor until midnight.
His son, 59-year-old Crown Prince Naruhito, will ascend the throne on Wednesday.
The last time a living emperor stepped down was in 1817, when Kokaku ceded the throne for his son, Ninko.