|Crown Prince Naruhito and Emperor Akihito|
The government has set the date of Crown Prince Naruhito’s accession to the Imperial Throne and the beginning of a new era for January 1, 2019, the Imperial Household Agency announced Wednesday.
The Emperor, who signaled his wish for abdication in a video message last August, will step down on Dec. 31, 2018, closing the current Heisei era of his reign at its 30th year.
The government considers it desirable to start the new era at the same time as a new calendar year to minimize the impact of the era change on people’s daily lives, the sources said.
Within the government, the end of 2018 had been widely regarded as a possible date for the 83-year-old Emperor’s abdication since he, in the closely watched video released on Aug. 8, noted that the Heisei era will reach the 30th year in 2018.
At a press conference on Wednesday, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said the government is “past consideration and is preparing for transition” the timing of Imperial succession at the moment.
The next era name will be announced before Emperor Akihito's birthday November 23, 2018 in order to facilitate preparations for the name change, if planned abdication legislation is enacted during the ordinary session of the Diet from Jan. 20, the sources said.
The government hopes to present the special legislation to enable the current Emperor’s abdication around a string of national holidays from late April to early May after upcoming talks between the ruling and opposition parties on the issue.
AP, Jiji Press, Daily Yomiuri