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Japanese Emperor Akihito to abdicate after three decades on throne

Japanese Emperor Akihito will abdicate today, in favour of his elder son, ending a three-decade reign during which he sought to ease the painful memories of World War II and engage with people, including the marginalised in society.

Akihito, 85, was the first Japanese monarch to take the throne under a post-war constitution that defines the emperor as a symbol of the people without political power.

His father, Hirohito, in whose name Japanese troops fought World War II, was considered a living deity until after Japan’s defeat in 1945, when he renounced his divinity.

Akihito, together with Empress Michiko, his wife of 60 years and the first commoner to marry an imperial heir, carved out an active role as a symbol of reconciliation, peace and democracy.

The abdication, the first by a Japanese monarch in two centuries, will be marked by a brief and relatively simple ceremony in the Imperial Palace’s prestigious Matsu no ma, or Hall of Pine.

About 300 people will attend and it will be broadcast live on television.

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