The government is considering holding Emperor Akihito’s abdication ceremony at the Imperial Palace on April 30, 2019, as a state occasion, government sources said Monday.
The Emperor’s abdication, at age 85, will mark the nation’s first in more than 200 years. His elder son, Crown Prince Naruhito, is set to ascend the throne the following day.
The government is considering how to stage the first abdication ceremony in modern Japan without creating a conflict with the Constitution, which prohibits the Emperor from having political power. Under the supreme law, which took effect in 1947, the Emperor, once considered divine, is defined as “the symbol of the state.”
Emperor Akihito wishes to abdicate in a ceremony that is “as simple as possible,” partly because the Enthronement Ceremony for the Crown Prince will be held a few months later, according to Shinichiro Yamamoto, the grand steward of the Imperial Household Agency.
There will be no foreign dignitary guests or parade and the Emperor will not appear before the general public at the palace for a farewell greeting, Yamamoto said.
The government will set up an organization headed by Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga in January to prepare for a spate of ceremonies based on traditional rituals.
The last Imperial abdication was by Emperor Kokaku in 1817.
One of the upcoming events is Kenji to Shokei no gi — a ceremony to hand down to the new emperor the Sacred Sword and Curved Jewels of the Imperial regalia, as well as the Privy Seal and the State Seal.
Emperor Akihito’s Enthronement Ceremony was held on Nov. 12, 1990, following the death of his father, Emperor Hirohito — who is posthumously known as Emperor Showa — in January 1989. It was attended by about 2,200 guests, including foreign heads of state.
The Enthronement Ceremony was organized as a state act in accordance with the Imperial House Law. But the law lacks a provision on an abdication ceremony.
Also on Monday, the Imperial Household Agency said Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko will move temporarily from the Imperial Palace to the Takanawa residence, which is also in Tokyo, after his abdication.
They will move again within about 18 months to Togu Palace on the Akasaka Estate, Yasuhiko Nishimura, vice grand steward at the agency, said at a regular news conference.
Togu Palace is the current residence of the Crown Prince and his family.
The Takanawa residence, in Minato Ward, was built in September 1973 for Prince and Princess Takamatsu. It has not been used since the death of the princess, Emperor Akihito’s aunt, in December 2004.
The residence will be repaired by the end of March 2019.
After the Crown Prince succeeds his father, he will move into the Imperial Palace with his family as soon as repairs are completed there. Until then, he will live in the palace in Akasaka and commute to the Imperial Palace for work.
Togu Palace will be made barrier-free before the retired Emperor, to be called jōkō, and his wife, to be called jōkōgō, start living there. It will be renamed the Sento Palace, which means “residence for jōkō.”
Meanwhile, Prince Akishino, the second son of the Emperor and Empress, will become kōshi, first in line to the Chrysanthemum Throne. He will stay with his family at his residence on the Akasaka Estate.
As he is expected to engage in a wider range of activities as kōshi, his residence will be renovated and connected with an adjacent Imperial residence at the estate.