Japan holds abdication ceremony for Emperor Akihito
In a historic ceremony in Tokyo, Emperor Akihito has declared his abdication and delivered his last public address as emperor.
His son, Crown Prince Naruhito, will ascend the throne on Wednesday, beginning a new era of "Reiwa" in Japan.
Our Kim Mok-yeon has the details.
A historic moment for Japan on Tuesday-- its 125th Emperor, Akihito abdicates his throne, the first time that a living emperor has done so in 202 years.
During his final speech to Japan, Akihito said that throughout the decades he spent in his position, he worked diligently to fulfill his role and thanked his countrymen for helping him throughout his journey.
"I sincerely thank the people who supported me in my role as the symbol of the state. I, along with the empress, sincerely wish for the Reiwa era to 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."
Tuesday's abdication ceremony comes some 3 years after Akihito first mentioned his desire to step down from his position due to health reasons.
Many Japanese citizens sympathized with the emperor's decision to abdicate, possibly because he was loved by many due to his care and concern for people suffering from disease and disaster.
Soon after his statement in 2016, Japan's Diet enacted a bill that made his abdication possible.
Since March 12th, Akihito has been holding a range of rituals to report his abdication to his ancestors.
The final leg of the ritual began in the early hours of Tuesday.
A few hours ago, a state-ceremony kicked off, attended by some 300 people, including his successor Naruhito and top Japanese officials.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe gave a speech in gratitude of the emperor's 30 years of service.
"On this day as I reflect back on the many years that have passed,
I reaffirm my deep reverence and gratitude to your majesty.
While keeping in our mind the way your majesty has lived, we the people of Japan are determined to live tomorrow with hope and pride.
On May 1st, Japan will officially embrace its new era of Reiwa.
As the clock ticks toward midnight, a huge countdown event will be held in Tokyo's Shibuya district to welcome in the new era.
The state enthronement ceremony will start at 10:30 a.m. local time on Wednesday with Crown Prince Naruhito set to inherit the three sacred treasures of Japan: the sword, the mirror and the jewel, in his first ritual as emperor.
Meanwhile, voices demanding the imperial system to be abolished have been raised in the streets of Japan.
Various civic groups have begun protests in Tokyo from Tuesday evening with some scheduled for Wednesday.
Protestors are demanding that Akihito's abdication should bring the end of the system of hereditary emperors.