Emperor Akihito will become first Japanese monarch to abdicate in 200 years

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Emperor Akihito's planned abdication - the first by a Japanese monarch in about two centuries - should take place on April 30, 2019, a special panel chaired by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe agreed on December 1.

The emperor, who has had heart surgery and treatment for prostate cancer, said in a rare video message aired in August 2016 that he is concerned age would one day stop him from fulfilling his duties, implying his wish to retire.

Japan's parliament enacted in June a law to allow Emperor Akihito to step down and pass his duties over to Crown Prince Naruhito.

He will be succeeded by his heir, 57-year-old Crown Prince Naruhito.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said the meeting, which involved the prime minister, politicians, the judiciary and imperial family members, decided on the abdication date.

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Japan's constitution defines the emperor as a symbol of the state and the people, without political power. The date of the said renunciation in the Council of the Imperial house, writes "Voice of America". It was needed because the 1947 Imperial House Law does not provide for abdication. "I hope the emperor will spend relaxing time as much as possible after the abdication", he said. Later in the day, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga is expected to give a briefing at a press conference on discussions during the closed-door session.

The octogenarian Akihito's 29-year reign has also been marked by travels to domestic disaster sites to cheer survivors, and overseas to soothe the wounds of a war fought in the name of his father, Emperor Hirohito, who was considered divine until Japan's defeat in World War Two.

Thus Akihito becomes the first Emperor who will do it for the last 200 years.

Japan's Emperor Akihito poses with Empress Michiko in 2015.

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