TOKYO – Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko of Japan celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary on Wednesday with a series of activities, their last before the abdication of the monarch on April 30 to make way for the crown prince, Naruhito.
Akihito, 85, and Michiko, 84, took part in a ceremony at the Tokyo Imperial Palace, attended by members of the royal family, including Naruhito and his wife, Masako, who will become the new emperor and empress on May 1.
The imperial couple also received Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, as well as the two heads of the two houses of the parliament and the head of the country’s judiciary.
On the occasion of the diamond wedding jubilee, the couple are expected to host a dinner, which will be attended by Naruhito and Masako, their son Prince Fumihito and his wife Kiko, and daughter Sayako, who lost her royal status in 2005 after marrying a commoner, as per rules governing the imperial household.
Akihito and Michiko got married on April 10, 1959 in a ceremony that was widely followed by the public as it marked the first royal wedding to be transmitted live on television.
Michiko, a commoner who was educated in world renowned institutions such as Oxford University in the United Kingdom and Harvard University in the United States, became an icon of modernization in Japan, and drew both admiration and criticism from the more progressive and conservative sections, respectively, in the country.
Akihito and Michiko met in August 1957 at a tennis tournament at the mountainous locality of Karuizawa, in which both of them were taking part.
The emperor, addressing a press conference on the occasion of his 85th birthday in December, heaped praises on his wife, saying she had always stood by him, understanding and supporting him.
Akihito’s abdication on April 30 will be the first such instance in Japan in more than 200 years.
Naruhito will succeed his father in a closed-door ceremony on May 1, before being officially crowned in a public ceremony at the Imperial Palace in the capital on Oct. 22.