Japanese emperor Akihito will abdicate in 2019, marking the end of the country’s Imperial era.

Akhito is the first emperor to abdicate since Kokaku in 1817, about 200 years ago.

Crown prince Naruhito, Akihito’s eldest son, will ascend the throne the following day, and begin a new period in Japan’s monarchical  history.

Akihito was 56 when he ascended the throne in January 1989 after the death of his father, Hirohito, beginning the Heisei era. Naruhito will be 59 when he becomes emperor.

The decision to replace Akihito  was made today at an Imperial House council meeting chaired by Japan’s prime minister, Shinzō Abe.

Parliamentary leaders, supreme court judges and family members were all present to set the date of the abdication.

The timing allows Akihito to abdicate after reaching his 30th anniversary on the throne.

Abe said:

I feel deeply moved that the decision was made smoothly by the Imperial House council, marking a major step toward an imperial succession. We will make our utmost effort to make sure that the emperor’s abdication and the crown prince’s succession will be carried out with no incident, with the blessing of the Japanese people.

Abe will provide the summary of the meeting early next week at the next cabinet session, before the decision receives formal approval on December 8.

Japan’s chief cabinet secretary, Yoshihide Suga, said:

We would like everyone to celebrate an abdication of the emperor and succession of the crown prince.

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The 83-year-old emperor had said last year that his age and health would make it difficult to fulfil his duties.

The emperor has no political powers but several official duties, such as greeting foreign dignitaries as well as performing religious customs.

According to a survey by the Kyodo news agency, the majority of people in Japan supported the emperor’s desire to abdicate after Akihito first announced his plans to step down and more than 85 percent think that abdication should be legalised.