ISE, MIE PREF. - Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko visited the Grand Shrines of Ise in Mie Prefecture on Thursday to report his upcoming abdication to the ancestral deities of the Imperial family enshrined there.
The couple have been on a three-day trip to Mie Prefecture since Wednesday. It will be their last trip to a region outside of Tokyo during the Emperor’s reign.
The Emperor, clad in a morning suit, and the Empress, wearing a long dress, offered prayers at the shrine during the Shinetsu no Gi ritual, one of a series of rituals held for the Imperial succession.
For the occasion, the Emperor brought with him the Imperial sword and jewel, two of the family’s three sacred treasures, which play a key role in the succession. The last treasure, a mirror, is kept at the shrine.
The regalia, called Sanshu no Jingi, will be passed on to 59-year-old Crown Prince Naruhito after he ascends to the Chrysanthemum Throne on May 1, a day after Emperor Akihito abdicates.
The Imperial Couple last visited the shrine in March 2014, and this is their fifth visit since the Emperor was enthroned in January 1989 upon the death of Emperor Hirohito, posthumously known as Emperor Showa.
The couple are scheduled to visit the Musashino Imperial mausoleum on the outskirts of Tokyo, where the late Emperor is buried, on Tuesday and take part in various official events until the end of the month. Emperor Akihito will deliver his last speech as Emperor on April 30.
In 2016, the Emperor indicated his wish to step down in a rare video message, citing his concern that he might not be able to fulfill his official duties due to his advanced age.
The following year, the Diet enacted one-off legislation to enable him to abdicate and become the first Japanese monarch to do so in about 200 years.