Emperor Akihito, who will abdicate Tuesday, has reigned for three decades from 1989 through the Heisei Era as a “symbol of the state and of the unity of the people” with Empress Michiko at his side.
The Imperial Couple have made it their mission to stand beside the Japanese people, visiting disaster shelters and evacuation centers to comfort victims.
They have also worked to heal past wounds — a top priority of the couple — visiting World War II battlegrounds at home and abroad to mourn those who died in the conflict Japan fought in the name of the Emperor’s father.
The Emperor was born on Dec. 23, 1933, the eldest son of Emperor Hirohito and Empress Nagako, who are known posthumously as Emperor Showa and Empress Kojun, respectively.
In April 1959, the Emperor married Michiko Shoda, the first commoner ever to wed an heir to the Chrysanthemum Throne. The Emperor nurtured the image of a new Imperial family to which the public, still recovering from the war, could better relate.
At 85 years old, he will now pass the torch to his son, Crown Prince Naruhito, who is expected to carry on his father’s mission after he ascends the throne on Wednesday, kicking off the Reiwa Era.