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International royalsJapan

Japan’s Imperial couple return to Tokyo after last trip outside capital before Emperor’s abdication

Emperor Akihito of Japan and his wife, Empress Michiko returned to Tokyo on Friday after a three-day trip to the Mie Prefecture. There were several ceremonies at the Grand Shrines of Ise where the Emperor reported his upcoming abdication.

They arrived on Wednesday at the Kintetsu Railway Co.’s Ujiyamada Station in Ise to a crowd of about 3,500. A further 1,500 people took part in a lantern procession to welcome the Imperial couple to the inner shrine that night. The Emperor and Empress visited the shrine complex itself on Thursday and, as part of the ceremonies related to the Emperor’s abdication, the Emperor brought the Imperial sword and jewel. The sword and jewel are two of the family’s three sacred treasures. The third – a mirror – is kept at the shrine. The couple’s only daughter Sayako Kuroda – formerly Sayako, Princess Nori – was present at the ceremonies as she is a priest of the shrine. The Emperor and Empress were said to be “deeply moved” and “relieved” after the ceremonies.

After the visit to the shrine, the Emperor and Empress travelled by train to Kashikojima, an island in the prefecture. Along the way, they waved at people and asked to be informed if there were people outside. That night was also their daughter’s 50th birthday, and they had dinner with her at the hotel in Kashikojima where they were staying.

Emperor Akihito is set to abdicate on 30 April with his son Crown Prince Naruhito set to take over as Emperor. The country’s current Heisei Era is set to end that day, followed by the start of the Reiwa Era on 1 May. Crown Prince Naruhito has no sons and his brother Fumihito, Prince Akishino is next in the line of succession as women are not allowed to succeed.