According to the Kyodo News, the abdication of the present Emperor of Japan, Akihito, will be held in December of this year. No official date has been named, but the Japanese government is planning to hold the ceremony at the Imperial Palace where he will hand down the throne to his son, 57-year-old Crown Prince Naruhito. The 23rd of December is the Emperor’s birthday, and some believe the ceremony will occur near that date.
The last emperor to abdicate was in 1817 when Emperor Kokaku relinquished the throne. Japanese emperors have been abdicating since the 7th century; however, it has been 200 years since the last official ceremony. The government, according to official sources, is studying documents that will assist them in knowing how the ceremony and enthronement ceremonies for the Crown Prince should take place.
The official abdication and various enthronement ceremonies might need to be implemented only after “a state act that requires Diet approval to conduct,” according to the official sources. There is only legislation in place for the “posthumous transfer” of the throne. Therefore, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government is working on creating “legal changes” so Emperor Akihito can abdicate according to his stated wishes that he made public last year. He explained that he wanted to step down because of his advanced age.
The sitting emperor is reigning under the Heisei Era; this will last until 31 December 2018. The next era will begin with his son on 1 January 2019. To avoid confusion for the people and the calendar, the ceremony will take place in December.
According to the sources, the abdication could go as follows: An agent, in the presence of the ‘retiring’ emperor, will read his reasons for abdicating.
In such ceremonies, an agent reads out an emperor’s words explaining the reasons for his abdication with the retiring monarch attending; it will be held either before or after Kenji to Shokei no Gi, the ceremony where traditional properties such as the sacred sword and jewels are handed down to the new emperor.
This is all that is needed to be done by the retiring emperor. The first responsibility of the new emperor is to hold the Choken no Gi first audience ceremony to meet with the heads of the parliamentary government, administrative and judicial systems of Japan with it all due to occur at the end of 2018. In 2019, an enthronement ceremony, called Sokui no Rei, will take place to announce the new emperor’s accession formally.