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Emperor Akihito celebrates last birthday as Emperor of Japan

Japan’s Emperor Akihito has celebrated his last birthday as Emperor of Japan as he is due to abdicate in favour of his eldest son, Crown Prince Naruhito next year.

His Imperial Majesty turns 85 today, and it was marked throughout Japan as it is a national holiday “The Emperor’s Birthday” in the country.

His Imperial Majesty remarked at a press conference about this being his last birthday as Emperor and his role:

“We are now coming to the end of the year, and the day of my abdication in the spring of next year is approaching. Ever since ascending to the throne, I have spent my days searching for what should be the role of the Emperor who is designated to be the symbol of the State by the Constitution of Japan. I intend to carry out my duties in that capacity and shall continue to contemplate this question as I perform my day-to-day duties until the day of my abdication.”

He continued by reminiscing about his time as Emperor of Japan and how he is looking forward to celebrating his 60th wedding anniversary to Empress Michiko:

“In April next year, the Empress and I will celebrate the 60th anniversary of our marriage. The Empress has always been at my side, understood my thoughts, and supported me in my position and official duties as I performed my duties as the Emperor. She also showed great devotion towards Emperor Showa and others related to me and raised our three children with deep affection. Looking back, it was soon after I embarked on my life’s journey as an adult member of the Imperial Family that I met the Empress. Feeling a bond of deep trust, I asked her to be my fellow traveller and have journeyed with her as my partner to this day… I am also truly grateful to the Empress, who herself was once one of the people, but who chose to walk this path with me, and over sixty long years continued to serve with great devotion both the Imperial Family and the people of Japan.”

Lastly, he expressed his wish that “the coming year will be a good year for all the people.”

The Emperor and Empress greeted the Imperial Family, as well as governmental representatives including the Prime Minister; the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President of the House of Councillors. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court also met the Emperor to wish his congratulations alongside the rest of the government representatives in the congratulatory ceremony.

Next, a birthday luncheon was hosted by Their Imperial Majesties for government members, representatives from the judicial branch, prefectural governors and representatives, and the Imperial Family. Afterwards, the heads of the diplomatic missions in Japan and their spouses attended a tea reception for His Imperial Majesty. As with the other events, the Imperial Family also participated.

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As is tradition, the Japanese Imperial Family appeared at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo for the celebrations on the balcony to greet the crowds below. The Imperial Palace is usually off-limits to the public, but on The Emperor’s Birthday, the gates are opened for the public to see the Imperial Family.

The Imperial Family, consisting of the Emperor and Empress, the Crown Prince and Crown Princess, Prince and Princess Akishino, Princess Mako and Princess Kako, made three separate appearances on the balcony roughly 40 minutes apart.

The Emperor took time to greet the awaiting public who continued to cheer and wave their Japanese flags once His Imperial Majesty had concluded his final official birthday remarks.

Just last year, the Emperor pledged to fulfil his duties until the moment of his abdication.

“Over the remaining days, as I continue to carry out my duties as the symbol of the State, I would like to make preparations for passing the torch to the next era, together with the people concerned.

“I am truly grateful that numerous people have put their thoughts and efforts into the matter in their respective roles,” Emperor Akihito said in 2017 to a crowd of 52,300.

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The Imperial Household Agency has also stated on their website, “On the occasion of the Emperor’s Birthday, the Greeting Book is open for the well-wishers from 0:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. in front of the Imperial Household Building.”

Beginning in 2020, “The Emperor’s Birthday” (or Tennō tanjōbi in Japanese) will be moved to Naruhito’s birthday on 23 February 2020. The holiday will not be celebrated in 2019 as Naruhito’s birthday will have already passed when he ascends the throne in May.

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