Japan’s Emperor Akihito has declared his abdication in a historic ceremony at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo.
In his last public address as emperor, Akihito handed over the symbols of power and thanked the public for their support during his 30-year reign.
The 85-year-old was given permission to abdicate after saying he felt unable to fulfill his role because of his age and declining health.
He is the first Japanese monarch to stand down in more than 200 years.
Akihito technically remained emperor until midnight (15:00 GMT on Tuesday).
His eldest son, Crown Prince Naruhito, formally ascends the throne later on Wednesday. A new era— called Reiwa, meaning order and harmony— will begin in Japan’s unique calendar.
While the emperor holds no political power, he serves as a national figurehead.
Akihito has endeared himself to many Japanese people during his reign as he has interacted with those suffering from disease and disaster.
In the morning, the emperor took part in a Shinto ceremony to report his plans to the mythological ancestors of Japan’s imperial family.
The main “Ceremony of the Abdication” took place in a state room of the Imperial Palace in front of about 300 people including Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Crown Prince Naruhito, and Crown Princess Masako.
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