The government has started to discuss a plan to arrange for Emperor Akihito to abdicate on Dec. 23, 2018, which is his 85th birthday, and for Crown Prince Naruhito to ascend the throne on that day or the following day, a government source said Tuesday.

The idea emerged a few hours after a senior Imperial Household Agency official said it would be "difficult" for the Crown Prince to begin his reign as the new emperor on Jan. 1, 2019, as has been recently reported by Japanese media, due to key events held every year on New Year's Day.

Japanese media outlets have reported that the government is considering the possibility of arranging for the Crown Prince, 56, to ascend the throne on New Year's Day of 2019, following the current Emperor's abdication the previous day, citing unnamed sources.