Photo/IllutrationEmperor Akihito delivers his last speech to the people during a ceremony on April 30 in the Imperial Palace marking his abdication. (Tatsuya Shimada)

  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion

Emperor Akihito expressed his gratitude to the Japanese people for their support in his last speech during a ceremony on April 30 officially marking his abdication after 30 years on the throne.

"I sincerely thank the people who accepted and supported me in my role as the symbol of the state," Akihito said at the Taiirei-seiden-no-Gi.

Akihito gave his speech after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe spoke on behalf of the people and said that he wanted to express once again "feelings of reverence and gratitude" to the emperor.

About 300 people gathered at the Matsu-no-Ma state room within the Imperial Palace in Tokyo to take part in the ceremony. The participants included Empress Michiko, Crown Prince Naruhito, Crown Princess Masako, other imperial family members as well as members of the Abe Cabinet, the speaker of the Lower House and the chief justice of the Supreme Court.

Many of the same individuals will gather again in the same state room on May 1 for ceremonies marking the ascension of Naruhito to the Chrysanthemum Throne.

Akihito began his speech by saying, "Today, I am concluding my duties as the emperor."

He added, "I have performed my duties as the emperor with a deep sense of trust in and respect for the people, and I consider myself most fortunate to have been able to do so."

Akihito concluded his speech with reference to the new era that begins May 1.

"I sincerely wish, together with the empress, that the Reiwa Era, which begins tomorrow, will be a stable and fruitful one, and I pray, with all my heart, for peace and happiness for all the people in Japan and around the world," he said.

The emperor, now 85, released a video message in August 2016 in which he indicated his intention to abdicate in favor of his eldest son. A special measures law related to the Imperial House Law passed the Diet in June 2017 allowing Akihito to abdicate.

The last time a living emperor abdicated was in 1817, when Emperor Kokaku stepped down.

Akihito and Michiko will not take part in any public events as emperor emeritus and empress emerita.

Prince Fumihito, 53, will become crown prince and his 12-year-old son, Prince Hisahito, will be second in line of succession, followed by Prince Hitachi, Akihito's younger brother.

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The full text of the English translation of Emperor Akihito's last speech as provided by the Imperial Household Agency is as follows:

Today, I am concluding my duties as the emperor.

I would like to offer my deep gratitude to the words just spoken by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on behalf of the people of Japan.

Since ascending the throne 30 years ago, I have performed my duties as the emperor with a deep sense of trust in and respect for the people, and I consider myself most fortunate to have been able to do so. I sincerely thank the people who accepted and supported me in my role as the symbol of the state.

I sincerely wish, together with the empress, that the Reiwa Era, which begins tomorrow, will be a stable and fruitful one, and I pray, with all my heart, for peace and happiness for all the people in Japan and around the world.