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Japan ponders Imperial succession for modern times

Emperor's symbolic role necessitates rethink of old traditions around abdication

Emperor Akihito, second from right, and Crown Prince Naruhito, left, attend the annual spring garden party at Akasaka Palace in Tokyo on April 20. (Photo by Kaisuke Ota)

TOKYO -- As Japan prepares for the first abdication of an emperor in two centuries, it is wrestling with the question of how to handle this unusual handover in an era when the monarch is regarded as a symbol rather than a living god.

No modern precedent

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