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Japan’s Emperor Akihito to abdicate on April 30, 2019

TOKYO (AP) – Japan’s much admired Emperor Akihito plans to abdicate on April 30, 2019, at age 85 in the first such abdication from the Chrysanthemum Throne in about 200 years, the government said Friday.

Akihito’s elder son Crown Prince Naruhito will ascend the throne a day later, on May 1, 2019, beginning a new as yet unnamed era.

The decision was made Friday at a meeting of the Imperial House Council, which included politicians, judicial officials and imperial family members.

FILE – In this Jan. 26, 2016, file photo, Japan’s Emperor Akihito, right, and Crown Prince Naruhito, left, walk at Haneda international airport in Tokyo. Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Friday, Dec. 1, 2017, Emperor Akihito plans to abdicate on April 30, 2019, in the first such abdication in about 200 years. The emperor will be 85 by then.(AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko, File)

Akihito expressed his apparent wish to abdicate in 2016, citing his age and health.

Formal Cabinet approval of the decision is due on Dec. 8, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters.

“I feel deeply moved that the decision was made by the Imperial Household Agency making a major step toward an imperial succession,” Abe said.

Legislation allowing Akihito to abdicate within three years was enacted earlier this year.

His desire to leave the throne revived a debate about the country’s 2,000-year-old monarchy, one of the world’s oldest, as well as discussion about improving the status of female members of the shrinking royal population. The current male-only succession rules prohibit women from succeeding to the Chrysanthemum Throne and female members lose their royal status when they marry a commoner.

Akihito was 56 years old when he ascended the throne in January 1989 after the death of his father, Emperor Hirohito, beginning the Heisei Era. Naruhito will be 59 when he becomes emperor.

The emperor and his wife Empress Michiko, who was born a commoner, are an elegant, stately pair often seen making visits to disaster victims and carrying out other official duties.

The legislation for Akihito’s case was needed because the 1947 Imperial House Law does not provide for abdication. The last emperor to abdicate was Kokaku in 1817.

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Japan's Prince Hitachi, right, and Princess Hanako attend a meeting of the Imperial Household Council to discuss the issues related to the abdication of Japan's Emperor Akihito at the Imperial Household Agency in Tokyo, Japan Friday, Dec. 1, 2017. (Toru Hanai/Pool Photo via AP)

Japan’s Prince Hitachi, right, and Princess Hanako attend a meeting of the Imperial Household Council to discuss the issues related to the abdication of Japan’s Emperor Akihito at the Imperial Household Agency in Tokyo, Japan Friday, Dec. 1, 2017. (Toru Hanai/Pool Photo via AP)

FILE - In this Jan. 2, 2017, file photo, Japan's Emperor Akihito waves to well-wishers from the palace balcony during a New Year's public appearance with his family members at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo. Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe says Friday, Dec. 1, 2017, Emperor Akihito will abdicate on April 30, 2019, at age 85 . (AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi, File)

FILE – In this Jan. 2, 2017, file photo, Japan’s Emperor Akihito waves to well-wishers from the palace balcony during a New Year’s public appearance with his family members at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo. Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe says Friday, Dec. 1, 2017, Emperor Akihito will abdicate on April 30, 2019, at age 85 . (AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi, File)

FILE - In this June 19, 2012 file photo, Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko leave after praying at the altar of the late Prince Tomohito, in Tokyo.  Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Emperor Akihito plans to abdicate on April 30, 2019, in the first such abdication in about 200 years.  The emperor will be 85 by then and has cited his age as a concern. Akihito's elder son Crown Prince Naruhito will ascend the throne a day later, on May 1, 2019, beginning a new era. (AP Photo/Itsuo Inouye, File)

FILE – In this June 19, 2012 file photo, Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko leave after praying at the altar of the late Prince Tomohito, in Tokyo. Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Emperor Akihito plans to abdicate on April 30, 2019, in the first such abdication in about 200 years. The emperor will be 85 by then and has cited his age as a concern. Akihito’s elder son Crown Prince Naruhito will ascend the throne a day later, on May 1, 2019, beginning a new era. (AP Photo/Itsuo Inouye, File)

Japan's Prince Hitachi attends a meeting of the Imperial Household Council to discuss on the issues related to the abdication of Japan's Emperor Akihito at the Imperial Household Agency in Tokyo, Japan Friday, Dec. 1, 2017. (Toru Hanai/Pool Photo via AP)

Japan’s Prince Hitachi attends a meeting of the Imperial Household Council to discuss on the issues related to the abdication of Japan’s Emperor Akihito at the Imperial Household Agency in Tokyo, Japan Friday, Dec. 1, 2017. (Toru Hanai/Pool Photo via AP)

Clockwise from top, Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, House of Representatives speaker Tadamori Oshima, House of Councillors speaker Chuichi Date, House of Representatives vice-speaker Hirotaka Akamatsu, House of Councillors vice-speaker Akira Gunji, Imperial Household Agency chief Shinichiro Yamamoto, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, Supreme Court judge Kiyoko Okabe, Supreme Court Chief Justice Itsuro Terada, Princess Hanako and Prince Hitachi attend a meeting of the Imperial Household Council to discuss the issues related to the abdication of Japan's Emperor Akihito at the Imperial Household Agency in Tokyo, Japan Friday, Dec. 1, 2017. (Toru Hanai/Pool Photo via AP)

Clockwise from top, Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, House of Representatives speaker Tadamori Oshima, House of Councillors speaker Chuichi Date, House of Representatives vice-speaker Hirotaka Akamatsu, House of Councillors vice-speaker Akira Gunji, Imperial Household Agency chief Shinichiro Yamamoto, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, Supreme Court judge Kiyoko Okabe, Supreme Court Chief Justice Itsuro Terada, Princess Hanako and Prince Hitachi attend a meeting of the Imperial Household Council to discuss the issues related to the abdication of Japan’s Emperor Akihito at the Imperial Household Agency in Tokyo, Japan Friday, Dec. 1, 2017. (Toru Hanai/Pool Photo via AP)

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe attends a meeting of the Imperial Household Council to discuss on the issues related to the abdication of Japan's Emperor Akihito at the Imperial Household Agency in Tokyo, Japan Friday, Dec. 1, 2017. (Toru Hanai/Pool Photo via AP)

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe attends a meeting of the Imperial Household Council to discuss on the issues related to the abdication of Japan’s Emperor Akihito at the Imperial Household Agency in Tokyo, Japan Friday, Dec. 1, 2017. (Toru Hanai/Pool Photo via AP)

Clockwise from top, Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, House of Representatives speaker Tadamori Oshima, House of Councillors speaker Chuichi Date, House of Representatives vice-speaker Hirotaka Akamatsu, House of Councillors vice-speaker Akira Gunji, Imperial Household Agency chief Shinichiro Yamamoto, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, Supreme Court judge Kiyoko Okabe, Supreme Court Chief Justice Itsuro Terada, Princess Hanako and Prince Hitachi attend a meeting of the Imperial Household Council to discuss the issues related to the abdication of Japan's Emperor Akihito at the Imperial Household Agency in Tokyo, Japan Friday, Dec. 1, 2017. (Toru Hanai/Pool Photo via AP)

Clockwise from top, Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, House of Representatives speaker Tadamori Oshima, House of Councillors speaker Chuichi Date, House of Representatives vice-speaker Hirotaka Akamatsu, House of Councillors vice-speaker Akira Gunji, Imperial Household Agency chief Shinichiro Yamamoto, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, Supreme Court judge Kiyoko Okabe, Supreme Court Chief Justice Itsuro Terada, Princess Hanako and Prince Hitachi attend a meeting of the Imperial Household Council to discuss the issues related to the abdication of Japan’s Emperor Akihito at the Imperial Household Agency in Tokyo, Japan Friday, Dec. 1, 2017. (Toru Hanai/Pool Photo via AP)

Clockwise from top,  Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, House of Representatives speaker Tadamori Oshima, House of Councillors speaker Chuichi Date, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, Princess Hanako and Prince Hitachi attend a meeting of the Imperial Household Council to discuss the issues related to the abdication of Japan's Emperor Akihito at the Imperial Household Agency in Tokyo, Japan Friday, Dec. 1, 2017. (Toru Hanai/Pool Photo via AP)

Clockwise from top, Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, House of Representatives speaker Tadamori Oshima, House of Councillors speaker Chuichi Date, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, Princess Hanako and Prince Hitachi attend a meeting of the Imperial Household Council to discuss the issues related to the abdication of Japan’s Emperor Akihito at the Imperial Household Agency in Tokyo, Japan Friday, Dec. 1, 2017. (Toru Hanai/Pool Photo via AP)

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe arrives at the Imperial Palace to attend a meeting of the Imperial Household Council in Tokyo Friday, Dec. 1, 2017. The Imperial household meeting is held to discuss on the issues related to Emperor Akihito's abdication. (Toru Yamanaka/Pool Photo via AP)

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe arrives at the Imperial Palace to attend a meeting of the Imperial Household Council in Tokyo Friday, Dec. 1, 2017. The Imperial household meeting is held to discuss on the issues related to Emperor Akihito’s abdication. (Toru Yamanaka/Pool Photo via AP)

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe arrives at the Imperial Palace to attend a meeting of the Imperial Household Council in Tokyo Friday, Dec. 1, 2017.   The Imperial household meeting is held to discuss on the issues related to Emperor Akihito's abdication. (Toru Yamanaka/Pool Photo via AP)

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe arrives at the Imperial Palace to attend a meeting of the Imperial Household Council in Tokyo Friday, Dec. 1, 2017. The Imperial household meeting is held to discuss on the issues related to Emperor Akihito’s abdication. (Toru Yamanaka/Pool Photo via AP)

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe arrives at the Imperial Palace to attend a meeting of the Imperial Household Council in Tokyo Friday, Dec. 1, 2017.   The Imperial household meeting is held to discuss the issues related to Emperor Akihito's abdication. (Toru Yamanaka/Pool Photo via AP)

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe arrives at the Imperial Palace to attend a meeting of the Imperial Household Council in Tokyo Friday, Dec. 1, 2017. The Imperial household meeting is held to discuss the issues related to Emperor Akihito’s abdication. (Toru Yamanaka/Pool Photo via AP)

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