Emperor Akihito of Japan, 85, has begun a series of rituals leading up to his abdication at the end of next month.
The first of these ceremonies took place on Tuesday, 12 March at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo at the three imperial sanctuaries.
The retiring Emperor wore an ancient court costume for his visits to Kashikodokoro, Koreiden and Shinden. At the first shrine, he bowed and read an anciently worded script to announce his 30 April abdication. His Imperial Majesty read the text aloud to the sun goddess Amaterasu-omikami who is enshrined at Kashikodokoro.
At Koreiden and Shinden, similar rites were performed. These sanctuaries are dedicated to both royal ancestors and various deities in Japan. Government members did not attend the ceremonies.
These three rituals will take place again on the day of the abdication.
A series of solemn and quiet rituals will continue as part of the abdication process, the Imperial Household Agency has said.
The Emperor will travel to the Mausoleum of Emperor Jimmu in Nara Prefecture to announce his abdication to Japan’s first emperor. Other sites he will visit include his father’s the late Emperor Showa mausoleum in Tokyo and the Ise Shrine in Mie Prefecture.
The Taiirei Seiden no Gi abdication ceremony will take place at 5:00 pm local time on 30 April. The Kenji to Shokei no Gi ceremony for the new Emperor will take place on 1 May at 10:30 am. At 11:10 am, the Sokuigo Choken no Gi ceremony will take place where Emperor Naruhito will meet representatives of the people for the first time in his new role.
Emperor Akihito will abdicate on 30 April, and his son, Crown Prince Naruhito will ascend the throne the following day to become the next Emperor of Japan.
After his abdication, Emperor Akihito will be known as Emperor Emeritus and his wife, Empress Michiko, Empress Emerita. He will be the first Japanese emperor to abdicate in two centuries.