Taking over an idea by the Swedish, Dutch, Spanish and Belgian royal houses who all did a similar move in the past years, the Japanese Emperor Akihito has decided to abdicate the role of emperor in April 2019, leaving the seat to his son, Crown Prince Naruhito.
It will be the first abdication by a Japanese monarch in 200 years.
After reaching agreement with the Japanese government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the date for the transition is set to April 30, 2019. Mr Abe announced the date after a special panel session of parliament.
Emperor Akihito suffers from poor health (he’s had heart surgery and treatment for prostate cancer) and last year already had expressed his fear that this might make it hard to fulfil his duties
The last Japanese emperor to abdicate the throne was Emperor Kokaky in 1817.
Legend has it that the Chrysanthemum Throne, the official name of the Japanese monarchy, is the oldest continued monarchy in the world, as it was founded as early as 660 BC by then emperor Jimmu.
Emperor Akihito has assumed the role of Japanese emperor since 1989, being the 125th person to do so.
After Japan’s defeat in World War II, the then emperor Hirohito called for an end to "the false conception that the emperor is divine."
As per the Japanese constitution, the emperor has a mostly symbolic function and is seen as a "symbol of the state and the unity of its people" without any real political power as a constitutional monarch.
Of the mayor monarchies, this now only leaves the United Kingdom with a head of state older than 70 on the throne. Queen Elizabeth is 91 and her husband, Prince Philip has taken up his pension just a few months ago. It is widely expected that she will leave to throne to her son Charles in the next few years as well.