On the last day of his 30-year reign, Emperor Akihito on Tuesday said he “sincerely thanks” the Japanese people for their support of him as the symbol of the state, paving the way for the nation’s first abdication in around 200 years and Crown Prince Naruhito’s accession to the Chrysanthemum Throne at midnight.

"Today, I am concluding my duties as the emperor," he told a nationally televised ceremony marking his abdication.

"Since ascending the throne 30 years ago, I have performed my duties as the emperor with a deep sense of trust in and respect for the people, and I consider myself most fortunate to have been able to do so.