Photo/IllutrationMembers of the news media gather in front of the Imperial Palace in Tokyo to report on the abdication of Emperor Akihito on April 30. (Takayuki Kakuno)

  • Photo/Illustraion

Emperor Akihito is scheduled to proclaim his abdication at a ceremony on April 30, ending his 30-year reign and becoming the first emperor to step down in 202 years.

His address to be delivered during the abdication ceremony, Taiirei-Seiden-no-Gi, at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo in the late afternoon that day will be his last as emperor.

Akihito's abdication will bring an end to the era under his reign, called Heisei, later at midnight, ushering in a new imperial era, named Reiwa, under Akihito’s eldest son, Crown Prince Naruhito, 59, as new emperor.

Akihito’s abdication comes after the emperor, now 85, expressed his desire to abdicate in a nationally televised address in August 2016.

His abdication was approved after the Diet enacted a special measures law to allow him to step down as a one-time case.

Akihito will become the emperor emeritus and his wife, Empress Michiko, will become the empress emerita.

Upon her husband’s succession, Crown Princess Masako will become the new empress.

Prince Fumihito, Naruhito’s younger brother, will become the crown prince, the first in line to ascend the Chrysanthemum Throne.

Taiirei-Seiden-no-Gi is scheduled to start at 5 p.m. at the Matsu-no-Ma state room of the Imperial Palace as a national function. The ceremony is part of a series to be held in connection with the succession of imperial reigns.

The Three Sacred Treasures, or the imperial regalia, will be passed to the new emperor as proof of imperial status, in accordance with the tradition for generations. The treasures comprise the Yata no Kagami mirror, Kusanagi no Tsurugi sword and Yasakani no Magatama jewel.

But only the sword and jewel will be presented during the abdication rite in light of the principle of separation of religion and state stated under the Constitution. The seals of Japan and the emperor will also be presented during the ceremony as was the norm during a national function.

The number of people who will attend the ceremony will be 309, including Michiko, Naruhito, Masako and other adult members of the imperial family. The rite will also be attended by the speaker of the Lower House, president of the Upper House, the chief justice of the Supreme Court, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and other Cabinet members.

Abe is scheduled to give a speech on behalf of the Japanese public to be followed by Akihito’s address.

After his abdication, Akihito and Michiko will continue to reside in the Imperial Palace until a temporary residence in the capital’s Minato Ward becomes available after refurbishment.

The Kenji-to-Shokei-no-Gi ceremony will be held at the Imperial Palace from 10:30 a.m. on May 1 to mark the ascension of Naruhito as new emperor.

The regalia and other items presented in the abdication ceremony are expected to be passed down to him at the ascension rite.

Attendance from the imperial family for that ceremony will be limited to adult male members of the imperial family eligible to ascend the throne--Fumihito and Prince Hitachi, who is the younger brother of Akihito. No female royals will participate.

Naruhito will give his first address as emperor after he has an audience with the prime minister and other dignitaries representing the public in the Sokui-go-Choken-no-Gi ceremony.

Timeline for events in connection with imperial abdication and ascension

5 p.m. on April 30

Taiirei-Seiden-no-Gi ceremony

Prime Minister Abe gives speech representing the public

Emperor Akihito delivers his last address as emperor

0:00 a.m. May 1

Crown Prince Naruhito ascends as new emperor and the new imperial era, Reiwa, begins.

10:30 a.m. Kenji-to-Shokei-no-Gi ceremony

Imperial regalia are passed down to Naruhito

11:10 a.m. Sokui-go-Choken-no-Gi ceremony

Naruhito gives his first speech as emperor

Prime Minister Abe gives speech representing the public