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Emperor Akihito performs last official duty outside Imperial Palace ahead of abdication

KYODO

Emperor Akihito took part in an award ceremony in Tokyo on Friday, in what was likely his last official duty outside the Imperial Palace ahead of his abdication next week.

He appeared at the ceremony held by the Cabinet Office to present the Midori Prize, which is awarded to recipients who have made significant contributions to conservation and the sustainable use of biodiversity in various areas, including science, policy, public awareness and practical action, according to the AEON Environmental Foundation, the founder of the award.

The 85-year-old Emperor, who has reigned since January 1989, will step down on Tuesday, becoming the nation’s first monarch to do so in about two centuries. His eldest son Crown Prince Naruhito, 59, will ascend to the Chrysanthemum Throne the following day.

The Emperor’s final official duty will be the abdication ceremony at the state hall of the Imperial Palace on April 30. He is expected to deliver his final speech as emperor then. After retiring, he will not engage in any official duties.

He already made his last trips earlier this month to the Grand Shrines of Ise, a complex of Shinto shrines in Mie Prefecture, and the mausoleum of his father, Emperor Showa, on the outskirts of Tokyo. He is scheduled to spend his final days as Emperor inside the palace, according to the Imperial Household Agency.

Friday’s ceremony is an annual event that has been held since 2007, although it was canceled in 2011 due to the devastating earthquake and tsunami that hit the Tohoku region and again in 2016 when another major earthquake caused widespread damage in Kumamoto Prefecture.