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AP Photos: Japan witnesses rare imperial abdication

May 1, 2019
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Japan's Emperor Akihito, right, leaves after a ritual to report his abdication to the throne, at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo, Tuesday, April 30, 2019. The 85-year-old Akihito ends his three-decade reign on Tuesday when he abdicates to his son Crown Prince Naruhito. (Japan Pool via AP)

TOKYO (AP) — Japan has witnessed a rare handover of its Chrysanthemum Throne by a living emperor.

New Emperor Naruhito ascended the throne on Wednesday after his father Akihito abdicated Tuesday night and became emperor emeritus. It was Japan’s first abdication in two centuries.

The transition started Tuesday as Akihito, wearing a monarch’s dark orange robe and a headdress, reported his retirement at three main shrines, including one where the sun goddess Amaterasu, said to be the direct ancestress of the imperial family, is enshrined.

Akihito, 85, later formally announced his retirement in his final address to his people, thanking them for their support.

Akihito took the throne in 1989 and devoted his career to making amends for a war fought in his father’s name while bringing the aloof monarchy closer to the people. His era was the first in Japan’s modern history without war.

The nation celebrated the imperial succession prompted by retirement rather than death. Many stood outside the palace to reminisce about Akihito’s era; others joined midnight events when the transition occurred; and more came to celebrate the beginning of Naruhito’s reign.

Naruhito, at a succession ceremony Wednesday, pledged to emulate his father in seeking peace and staying close to the people. He received the imperial regalia of a sacred sword and jewel as proof of his succession.

On his way to and from the palace, he lowered his car window, smiled and waved at people cheering on the sidewalk.

Naruhito is the first emperor born after World War II and the first to have studied overseas.

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