Japan’s Emperor Akihito will step down from the “Chrysanthemum Throne” on April 30, 2019, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced Friday.
Akihito will become the first emperor to abdicate in 200 years. Crown Prince Naruhito, Akihito’s eldest son, will accede to the throne the following day, Japan’s public broadcaster NHK reports.
Akihito, the son of Japan’s wartime Emperor Hirohito, has reigned since 1989 and is the first Japanese emperor not to be considered divine.
In a televised address in 2016 he hinted at his intention to step down, expressing concerns over his declining fitness level and saying he “worried that it may become more difficult for me to carry out my duties as the symbol of the state.”
The 83-year-old has had heart surgery and treatment for prostate cancer.
In July, Japan’s parliament passed a historic law that cleared the way for Akihito’s abdication. It exempted him from a imperial house rule imposed in 1889 that requires monarchs to reign until they die.
Before that law passed, abdications were not uncommon. The last Japanese emperor to relinquish the throne was Emperor Kokaku, in 1817.