Emperor Akihito abdicated through a series of rituals held at the Imperial Palace on Tuesday, ending the 30-plus years of the Heisei Era under his reign and paving the way for the enthronement of his son, Emperor Naruhito, and the launch of the new era of Reiwa.

Not unlike the preceding era of Showa, remembered as the tumultuous times in which Japan experienced the devastation of World War II and postwar reconstruction and prosperity, the outgoing period of Heisei — despite the origin of the Imperial era name that meant universal peace — was indeed a turbulent era both at home and abroad.

The nation went through protracted economic doldrums as well as long-term transformation of its economy, and was hit by a series of large natural disasters. Overseas, the end of the Cold War was followed by new forms of struggles in search of a new international order and a prolonged war on terrorism. And a host of structural challenges confronting Japan — in particular its rapidly aging and declining population that threatens to change the shape of the nation — will not disappear with the transition from Heisei to Reiwa.