Photo/IllutrationPrime Minister Shinzo Abe, center, addresses the first meeting of a special committee established to prepare for next year's imperial succession on Oct. 12. (Takeshi Iwashita)

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced on Oct. 12 the government's plan to make May 1, 2019, when Crown Prince Naruhito will become emperor, a one-off national holiday.

That will open the way for a 10-day holiday period from April 27 until May 6.

Abe is heading a special committee that was established on Oct. 12 to prepare for next year's imperial succession, when Naruhito will ascend the Chrysanthemum Throne.

The new committee will meet about once every month or two months to discuss various ceremonies that will be held in conjunction with the abdication by Emperor Akihito on April 30, 2019.

One of the most important will be the Enthronement Ceremony scheduled for Oct. 22, 2019. Abe indicated at the meeting that the day will also be made a national holiday for next year alone.

The government is expected to submit legislation in the extraordinary Diet session scheduled to convene later this month to designate May 1 and Oct. 22 next year as national holidays.

The decision was also made to hold a ceremony on April 19, 2020, to officially designate Prince Fumihito as the imperial heir, giving him the same status as a crown prince. The ceremony will be considered a matter of state as defined by the Constitution.

The ceremony has never been held, but it is expected to follow the procedures that were taken during the investiture ceremony when Naruhito officially became crown prince on Feb. 23, 1991.

The meeting on Oct. 12 also approved the rough outline for a government-sponsored ceremony to be held on Feb. 24, 2019, to mark the 30th anniversary of Akihito's ascension to the throne. The ceremony will basically be similar to the one held for the 20th anniversary and representatives from various fields who have made noticeable achievements will be invited.

The committee is made up of Abe; Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga; the three deputy chief Cabinet secretaries, Yasutoshi Nishimura, Kotaro Nogami and Kazuhiro Sugita; Yusuke Yokobatake, the director-general of the Cabinet Legislation Bureau; Grand Steward Shinichiro Yamamoto from the Imperial Household Agency; and Takashi Kawachi, vice minister in the Cabinet Office.

(This article was written by Nobuhiko Tajima and Takahiro Okubo.)