Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko will hand over public duties of visiting kindergartens and nursing homes to their children after both of them turn 80, according to the Imperial Household Agency.

The couple expressed a wish to pass on the duties, the agency said Monday, quoting them as saying interacting with children and encouraging the elderly would be more suitable for the younger generation — Crown Prince Naruhito and Crown Princess Masako and Prince Akishino and Princess Kiko.

The Emperor turns 80 in December and the Empress hits the milestone in October 2014. The couple have made annual visits to a kindergarten on Children's Day in May and a home for the elderly on Respect for the Aged Day in September. Next year's visits will be their last.

The agency has yet to decide how the younger couples will take over the duties.

At a news conference ahead of his birthday last year, the Emperor spoke of his public duties and said that he would like to maintain the status quo for the time being.

"While reducing (the Emperor's) workload is an issue we must continue working on, we believe this issue (of passing annual visits) is separate," said Shinichiro Yamamoto, the agency's vice grand steward.

The Emperor and Empress have been performing the two duties since 1992 after the Emperor's accession to the Chrysanthemum Throne.

He has made 21 visits on each of the two public holidays to facilities in and around Tokyo.