TOKYO – The Japanese government set up on Wednesday a special office to organize all the procedures and ceremonies concerning the abdication of Emperor Akihito, scheduled to take place around the end of April 2019.
The new secretariat was inaugurated on Wednesday in Tokyo by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
It will have 26 staff members and will be headed by Shigetaka Yamasaki, former director general of the Cabinet Affairs Office and an expert on the Japanese monarchy.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga explained at a press conference that this team will take charge of all preparations for the succession of the Emperor so that the entire event runs smoothly.
The secretariat’s main tasks will involve preparing the abdication of Akihito on April 30; the succession of his son, Naruhito, on May 1; and the coronation of the new Emperor on Oct. 22 next year.
These ceremonies will include rituals that have existed for more than 1,000 years in the Imperial Household, which are linked to Shintoism and characterize the reigning monarchy that is considered the oldest in the world.
The secretariat will also have a committee to coordinate work between other offices and agencies of the government regarding the abdication process, which will involve a series of complex legal and administrative processes, among them a change in era in the Japanese calendar.
In August 2016, the Emperor, 84, expressed his desire to abdicate in favor of Naruhito, citing old age and fragile health.
However, since the current Japanese Constitution does not allow an aging emperor to abdicate, the Japanese legislature had to approve specific bills for the succession to proceed, delaying the abdication until May 2019.