The date will bring an end to Japan’s current Heisei era.

In July last year, reports began surfacing that Japan’s Emperor Akihito would be breaking with centuries of tradition by requesting to abdicate the throne, in a move that would make him the first Emperor to relinquish his title in 200 years.

A month later, the reports were seemingly confirmed in a video message from the 83-year-old Emperor, where he expressed concerns about fulfilling his duties in old age and spoke about the heavy burden that can be placed on society and the Imperial Family when an Emperor stays on the throne until his life’s end.

▼ Emperor Akihito’s video message to the nation.

The deep respect with which the title of Emperor is held, and the fact that the system encoded in the Japanese Constitution did not allow for abdication, meant that the Imperial Household Agency refrained from making an official announcement about the Emperor’s wishes, although it was widely understood that abdication was imminent.

In April this year, the Japanese Government approved a special bill allowing the reigning Emperor to abdicate the throne. This bill specifically names the successor as Crown Prince Hironomiya Naruhito, making this a one-time provision designed specifically for the current Emperor.

▼ Crown Prince Naruhito is pictured here with his wife Masako and their daughter Aiko.

With the correct system now in place to allow for abdication, commenters and analysts have spent the last few months speculating about the exact date when Emperor Akihito would step down. This interest in the abdication date stems from the fact that the event would have an immediate impact on society, not only for its historical and cultural importance, but also because the Japanese era would change as a result.

In Japan, years are numbered according to eras, which are named by the reigning Emperor. According to this system, 2017 is known as Heisei 29, given that this is the 29th year of Emperor Akihito’s reign. Abdication would effectively bring an end to the Heisei era and herald in a new, as yet unnamed era, to be decided upon by his successor, Prince Naruhito.

Today, numerous Japanese government officials have reportedly leaked the abdication date to the Asahi Shimbun, with the Emperor said to be stepping down on 31 March 2019.

▼ The Asahi Shimbun reported the abdication news this morning.

According to the report, the Emperor’s eldest son, 57-year-old Crown Prince Naruhito, will ascend the throne the day after the abdication, on 1 April 2019, which is also the beginning of the fiscal year in Japan. It’s believed that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will officially announce the date of abdication after meeting with top government officials and members of the Imperial Household Agency next month.

The government will announce the name of the new era sometime next year, and based on the provisions of the Special Law, the era will be enforced on the same day that Crown Prince Naruhito takes to the throne.

Source: Asahi Shimbun via My Game News Flash
Featured image: Wikimedia Commons/William Ng