Japan panel agrees on April 30, 2019 for Emperor Akihito's abdication

Japan panel agrees on April 30, 2019 for Emperor Akihito's abdication

Japan panel agrees on April 30, 2019 for Emperor Akihito's abdication

Updated 1 December 2017, 16:25 AEDT

Emperor Akihito's planned abdication — the first by a Japanese monarch in two centuries — will take place on April 30, 2019.

Japan's Emperor Akihito will abdicate on the 30th of April 2019 — meaning the 83-year-old will have to wait another 17 months to hand back the keys to the Imperial Palace.

He is an adored figure in Japan — his reign has been marked by peace and prosperity for the country, but he is worried he does not have the energy to be the Emperor for much longer. He turns 84 later this month.

In August 2016, the Emperor took the extraordinary step of making a national, televised address to explain his position.

He said he had been ill and was getting old and with the Olympics coming to Japan in 2020, the country needed a much younger Emperor to meet and greet all those important guests.

The problem was that no Emperor had stood down voluntarily for more than two centuries and no-one in the government knew how to make it happen.

You would think the powers-that-be would have been on his side, but surprisingly he encountered a lot of stiff traditionalists who wrung their hands and said "this is not how it should be".

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe appeared to be on his side, but he did not want to seem too eager to allow it, keeping a mindful eye on his supporter base who are conservative and wary of change.

Mr Abe convened a 10-member panel called the Imperial Household Council and the panel took its time to consider all the opinions and the legal ramifications for allowing the abdication.

Today, Mr Abe announced the date of the abdication.

"I feel deep emotion that today, the opinion of the Imperial Household Council was smoothly decided and a big step was taken toward the imperial succession," he said.

While the council has been navel-gazing, the Japanese people have been overwhelmingly in support of the abdication.

They see Emperor Akihito as a grandfather, who should be allowed to spend his twilight years in peace.

Even though the abdication will mark an end to the period of his reign known as the "Heisei" era — the kanji characters in the name mean "achieving peace".

The Japanese people think his son, Crown Prince Naruhito, will preside over another era of success for the country.

The Crown Prince will be 59 when he takes over in 2019.

He will be the first Emperor to speak English, he studied at Oxford University after high school in Tokyo.

He plays the viola and is interested in water conservation.

For an Australian connection, Wikipedia says he went on a homestay in Melbourne in 1974 and lived with the family of a Melbourne businessman — who knew?

ABC