Emperor Akihito performs last harvest ritual at Imperial Palace before abdication

AP, Kyodo

Emperor Akihito has given thanks to the gods for a bountiful autumn harvest, the last time he will perform one of the most important annual palace rites before abdicating next spring.

The Emperor conducted the Niiname-sai harvest ritual Friday at a shrine in the Imperial Palace illuminated by torchlight as traditional music was played. He offered harvested rice and other items to the gods, thanking them for the harvest and praying for peace for the nation.

Some of the rice was harvested by the 84-year-old Emperor from a paddy inside the palace grounds. The rest was offered by farmers from around the country.

The end of this year’s harvest festival sets the stage for the Emperor’s abdication on April 30. He will be succeeded the following day by his son, Crown Prince Naruhito, 58.

A photo exhibition chronicling major events during Emperor Akihito’s reign opened Saturday at Tokyo International Forum.

On display at the exhibition, titled “Footprints of The Heisei Era — A News Agency as Eyewitness,” are about 130 photos, taken after Emperor Akihito ascended the Chrysanthemum Throne in 1989 upon the death of his father, Emperor Hirohito, posthumously known as Emperor Showa.

Among the photos on display are ones showing the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the Emperor’s historic trip to China in 1992, the Tokyo subway gas attack in 1995 and the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami in 2011, as well as many other natural disasters and sporting events.

The exhibition, which runs through Dec. 2, is the 10th and latest in a series of photo exhibitions organized by the nonprofit Japan Press Research Institute since 2012.

A limited version of the Heisei Era photo exhibition will be held at the Japan Newspaper Museum, popularly known as Newspark, in Yokohama between July and September.