Emperor Akihito reflected on his 30 years on the Chrysanthemum Throne at a news conference held to mark his 85th birthday on Dec. 23. (Provided by the Imperial Household Agency)

Emperor Akihito reflected on his 30 years on the Chrysanthemum Throne in an emotional news conference that was held ahead of the national holiday that falls on Dec. 23 to celebrate his 85th birthday.

With his abdication scheduled for April 30, the 16-minute news conference held on Dec. 20 was his last for the national holiday. Akihito has held such news conferences almost every year since he became emperor in 1989, heralding the start of the Heisei Era.

Noting that his elder son, Crown Prince Naruhito, will take over as emperor from May 1, Akihito choked up and said, "As I come to the end of my journey as emperor, I would like to thank from the bottom of my heart the many people who accepted and continued to support me."

He also reflected on his role as symbol of the state and said, "I intend to carry out my duties in that capacity and shall continue to contemplate this question as I perform my day-to-day duties until the day of my abdication."

Akihito also spent much of the news conference reflecting on peace as he is the last emperor with direct experience of World War II.

Not forgetting that the peace and prosperity enjoyed by Japan after the war was built on the countless lived lost during the conflict and the numerous sacrifices made by the people since then, he said, "I have believed it is important ... to pass on this history accurately to those born after the war."

Reflecting on his reign, he added, "It gives me deep comfort that the Heisei Era is coming to an end, free of war in Japan."

He also spoke about Okinawa, which he has visited on 11 occasions, noting that it "has experienced a long history of hardships."

Describing how he and Empress Michiko have tried to understand the history and culture of the nation's southernmost prefecture, Akihito said, "We are committed to continue to care for the sacrifices that the people of Okinawa have endured over the years, and that commitment will remain unchanged in the future."

Akihito also mentioned the many natural disasters that have occurred during the Heisei Era. Touching upon the many lives lost and damage caused by those disasters, he said, "I have no words to describe the deep sadness I feel when I think of this."

But, he added, "I have been heartened to see that, in the face of such difficulties, the spirit of volunteering ... is growing among the people and that the awareness of disaster preparedness and the capacity to respond to disasters are increasing."

With the imperial couple to mark their 60th wedding anniversary in April, Akihito said he felt "a bond of deep trust" with Michiko.

"I am also truly grateful to the empress, who herself was once one of the people, but who chose to walk this path with me, and over 60 long years continued to serve with great devotion both the imperial family and the people of Japan," he said.

Akihito also had words for his two sons, Naruhito and Prince Fumihito, who will serve as crown prince once his older brother ascends the Chrysanthemum Throne.

"I think that, while carrying on the traditions of the imperial family, they will continue to walk their paths, keeping pace with the ever-changing society," Akihito said.