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Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko take leisurely stroll to enjoy sakura by palace

The Emperor and Empress of Japan surprised early morning joggers as they enjoyed a walk along the outer moat of the Imperial Palace in Tokyo.

The Imperial couple took an announced walk to view the cherry trees at the end of their blooms. The couple walked from the Kitahanebashimon gate at the north of the palace and crossed a bridge to a walkway by a public road along the moat. Despite it being just past 7 O’clock in the morning, the Imperial couple were soon recognised. The couple often takes walks together inside the palace grounds, but they rarely go outside the walls. The walk was only about 10 minutes long.

The couple were dressed casual and had linked their arms as they walked. They chatted and looked up at the petals that had begun to fall from some of the trees. They stopped in front of a poster that explains the differences between cherry species. The couple waved and smiled as onlookers began to recognise them before returning to the palace.

Emperor Akihito is set to abdicate on 30 April 2019, leaving the throne to his eldest son Crown Prince Naruhito.

The government of Japan has officially approved the abdication ceremony of Emperor Akihito, it was announced recently. This provides the legal basis to allow him to step down from the throne after a one-off law was passed to allow him to retire.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said in a press conference, “As there are a variety of things we need to prepare toward the imperial succession, we will do our best so that the Emperor’s abdication and the Crown Prince’s accession will be carried out smoothly.”

Akihito will give a final address to the Japanese people during the abdication ceremony which reportedly will only include close to 300 people. Sources have indicated that the name for the new era after the Crown Prince ascends to the Chrysanthemum Throne may not be released until the end of this year or even later.