Japanese emperor to abdicate on April 30, 2019

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The Emperor of Japan Akihito will abdicate in April 2019. Akihito, who has had heart surgery and treatment for prostate cancer, said in rare remarks past year that he feared age might make it hard to fulfill his duties.

He will immediately be succeeded by Crown Prince Naruhito on May 1, 2019.

The decision was made during a Friday meeting of the Imperial House Council, which included politicians, judicial officials and imperial family members.

The Japanese Emperor has no political powers, but is expected to perform several national duties, including greeting other heads of state.

The government was required by law to hear the council's views before formally deciding the date, most likely next week.

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Akishino, who is next in line to the throne after the 57-year-old Naruhito, said he wanted his father to rest after retiring.

Japan's top government spokesperson, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a press conference that the emperor's abdication date will be reported to the Cabinet on December 5.

Emperor Akihito, who has spent much of his almost three decades on the throne seeking to soothe the wounds of World War Two, is deeply admired and respected in Japan which once considered its emperor to be divine. That is because he has only a daughter, Princess Aiko, who turned 16 on Friday, and under current rules she will be prohibited from inheriting the males only throne.

Time and details of the abdication of what is happening for the first time in more than two centuries, became the object of fierce debate in Japan.

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