Goodbye to Japan’s Foreign Relations Emperor

Media Coverage | April 02, 2019

Akihito spent his reign promoting better relations with Japan’s neighbors.

On April 30, something historic will happen in Japan. Sitting Emperor Akihito will step down and relinquish his title. His elder son, Crown Prince Naruhito, will take the throne. The transition will mark the first imperial succession in modern Japanese history that is not the result of a death. Akihito first made his desire to retire public during a rare video message in the summer of 2016. He noted that his advanced age (he is currently 85 years old) has made it difficult for him to fulfill his responsibilities. The next year, Japan’s Diet passed a bill permitting the emperor to abdicate.

Officials and representatives from over 190 countries have been invited to mark the occasion—and the vast changes that have transformed Japan since 1989, when Akihito became emperor after his father, Emperor Hirohito (known posthumously as Emperor Showa), died. When Akihito took the reins, Japan’s economy was the second-largest in the world behind the United States’. While the economy fell from that peak during his tenure, the Japanese people remained largely wealthy—with a greater quality of life as the years passed by. Life expectancy, for example, remains among the highest in the world.

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