The emperor bows out: Japan's ceremonial ruler completes his abdication - the first in 200 years - with humble gesture and message of gratitude as he brings era to an end | WHAT REALLY HAPPENED

The emperor bows out: Japan's ceremonial ruler completes his abdication - the first in 200 years - with humble gesture and message of gratitude as he brings era to an end

Emperor Akihito abdicated the Japanese throne Tuesday, becoming the country's first ruler in 200 years to step down from the role.

Akihito, 85, spent Tuesday morning holding traditional private ceremonies at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo in which he symbolically announced his intention to abdicate to Amaterasu, the sun goddess.

That was followed by a more formal state occasion attended where he gave a televised speech, thanking people for their support during his 30-year reign, before ending with a solemn bow.

Akihito's rule officially ends at midnight when his eldest son, Crown Prince Naruhito, will ascend to the Chrysanthemum Throne. The process will be officially recognised with a ceremony on Wednesday morning.

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