Cartoon by Patrick Chappatte

Japan's emperor Akihito abdicates with message of love 

The Guardian: Emperor Akihito has thanked the people of Japan for their support during his 30-year reign and said he hopes his successor’s time on the chrysanthemum throne will be “stable and fruitful”, as he becomes the country’s first monarch to abdicate in two centuries.

Speaking at a brief ceremony in the state room of the imperial palace a day before his eldest son, Naruhito, ascends the throne, the 85-year-old said he was praying for peace and happiness for the people of Japan.
The life and reign of Emperor Akihito – in pictures

“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,” he said in remarks broadcast live on TV.

“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.”

Japanese people and tourists visit the Imperial Palace, where Emperor Akihito is attending ritual ceremonies to abdicate. Photograph: Kimimasa Mayama/EPA

Moments earlier, the prime minister, Shinzō Abe, thanked Akihito and Empress Michiko for their decades of service, noting that the couple had “stood by the people, giving them courage and hope” in the aftermath of several natural disasters to have struck Japan during his reign.

Abe said the couple had “shared in the joys and sorrows” of the Japanese people, before wishing them a long and healthy retirement.

Akihito, who expressed a desire to abdicate in 2016, fearing his age would make it difficult for him to carry out public duties, entered the Matsu no Ma (Hall of Pine) at the imperial palace early on Tuesday evening and relinquished his title in a short ceremony.