Photo/IllutrationEmperor Akihito and Empress Michiko visit Komajinja shrine in Hidaka, Saitama Prefecture, on Sept. 20. (Pool)

Crown Prince Naruhito is expected to ascend to the Chrysanthemum Throne on April 1, 2019, according to government sources.

The final decision will be made by the government after it summons the Imperial Household Council, which comprises imperial family members, the prime minister, top Diet officials and Supreme Court justices as early as November.

The government has been weighing two plans for when to switch to a new imperial reign.

One is to allow Emperor Akihito to step down at the end of March 2019, ending his reign and the current Heisei Era, with a new era under Naruhito starting on April 1, 2019.

The other option is to enable Akihito to abdicate at the end of December 2018, with the new era beginning on Jan. 1, 2019.

The Imperial Household Agency was opposed to the plan to start a new era on Jan. 1, 2019, saying the ascension at that time would add to a number of important rituals and events scheduled for the imperial family each autumn and winter.

In addition, the imperial family is expected to be particularly busy in January 2019, as the ceremony to mark the 30th anniversary of the death of Emperor Hirohito, posthumously known as Emperor Showa, is scheduled for Jan. 7, 2019.

The government is now leaning toward the itinerary starting in April to “heed the request by the agency to give consideration to events of the imperial family,” according to a senior official with the prime minister’s office.

Akihito will be the first emperor to step down in 200 years since Emperor Kokaku abdicated in 1817.