The Japanese government has given approval to a bill that, if passed in the legislature, will permit Emperor Akihito to abdicate the "Chrysanthemum Throne", the BBC reports.
Akihito, who is 83, gave strong hints last August that he was thinking of stepping down because health and age were making it difficult to perform his official duties. However, under Japanese law, he is expected to serve until his death.
If the one-off abdication bill passes in parliament as it is expected to, Akihito could become the first Japanese emperor to abdicate since Emperor Kokaku in 1817. His heir apparent Crown Prince Naruhito—and any future successors—would not be able to abdicate under the same law.
Akihito's abdication is expected take place in December 2018, the BBC says. The Japanese government "hopes for the smooth passage of the legislation" Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters on Friday.