Photo/IllutrationEmperor Akihito leaves the "Kashikodoro" within the Imperial Palace on March 12 after reporting to Amaterasu-omikami about his abdication on April 30. (Provided by the Imperial Household Agency)

  • Photo/Illustraion

Emperor Akihito on March 12 took part in the first ceremony related to his abdication, informing imperial ancestors, including Amaterasu-omikami, the legendary sun goddess, of his intention to step down on April 30.

The “hokoku no gi” started around 10 a.m. within the Imperial Palace grounds, with Akihito dressed in the “sokutai,” a formal traditional attire that can only be worn by an emperor.

Akihito read out a document to the imperial ancestors that said in effect that he would abdicate the Chrysanthemum Throne on April 30. The imperial line is said to have descended from Amaterasu-omikami.

The same document was read at two other shrines in the Imperial Palace dedicated to past emperors and other Shinto gods.

A total of nine ceremonies will be held, culminating in the “taiirei seiden no gi” in which the abdication will be formally proclaimed.

Crown Prince Naruhito also took part in the March 12 ceremony dressed in the sokutai designated for his position. Eight imperial family members joined, but Empress Michiko was unable to attend because of a recurrence of pain from cervical spondylotic radiculopathy.

Another event was scheduled at the Imperial Palace later on March 12 in which Akihito will dispatch personal envoys to Ise Jingu shrine and the mausoleums of the first emperor, Jimmu, and the Komei, Meiji, Taisho and Showa emperors, with notices related to his abdication.

Akihito will be the first emperor to abdicate in Japan as a constitutional democracy. So in deciding what ceremonies to hold, Imperial Household Agency officials could only refer to the series of ceremonies held when Akihito became emperor as well as other regularly held imperial ceremonies.

Following Akihito’s wishes, the imperial family members’ personal expenses for daily life and activities are covering some of the 10 ceremonies not designated as state events.

However, agency officials have also made clear there would be no problem in using state funds to pay for the ceremonies related to the abdication because it is closely related to imperial succession.