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Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko dance at a charity ball in Tokyo on April 16, 1993.   © Kyodo
Japan's Reiwa era

In pictures: 30 years of Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko

As Japan embarks on a new era, we look back at the Imperial couple's reign

Japan's Emperor Akihito is the first to abdicate the Chrysanthemum Throne in about 200 years. For three decades, with Empress Michiko by his side, he served as "the symbol of the State and of the unity of the People," as stipulated in the postwar Japanese constitution. Here is a look back at how the Imperial couple shared the nation's joy and heartache during their reign.

 

1990

Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko set out for a parade at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo, after attending the emperor’s enthronement ceremony on Nov. 12.

 

Prime Minister Toshiki Kaifu gives three cheers before Emperor Akihito, who is standing on the Takamikura stage in the state room of the Imperial Palace, on Nov. 12.   © Kyodo

 

1991

The emperor greets Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev at the State Guest House in Tokyo’s Akasaka district on April 16.   © Kyodo

 

1992

The emperor and Chinese President Yang Shangkun review an honor guard outside the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Oct. 23.   © Kyodo

 

1993

Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko dance at a charity ball in Tokyo on April 16.   © Kyodo

 

1994

 U.S. President Bill Clinton looks on as the emperor speaks during a welcome ceremony at the White House on June 13.   © Kyodo

 

1995

Empress Michiko comforts an earthquake survivor at an evacuation center in Kobe on Jan. 31, days after the western city was hit by a magnitude-7.3 temblor.   © Kyodo

 

The emperor and empress greet crowds after consoling the souls of atomic bomb victims at the Nagasaki Peace Park on July 26.   © Kyodo

 

1998

Emperor Akihito and Queen Elizabeth talk during a banquet at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London on May 28.   © Kyodo

 

2001

The emperor and empress dance with nursery schoolchildren in Tokyo’s Shinagawa Ward on May 7.

 

2002

Emperor Akihito performs an annual harvest ritual at a rice paddy on the Imperial Palace grounds on Sept. 25. (Courtesy of Imperial Household Agency)

 

2005

The emperor and empress bow at the historic Banzai Cliff on the Pacific island of Saipan, part of the U.S. commonwealth Northern Mariana Islands, on June 28. During World War II, many Japanese civilians and soldiers jumped to their deaths from the cliff to avoid being captured by American soldiers.    © Kyodo

 

The empress, seated at a piano, smiles as the emperor plays a cello at the Imperial Palace on Oct. 7. Sayako Kuroda, the couple’s only daughter, looks on.  (Courtesy of Imperial Household Agency)

 

2009

Emperor Akihito greets U.S. President Barack Obama upon his arrival at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo in November 2009.   © Reuters

 

Visiting Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping, left, is greeted by Emperor Akihito at the Imperial Palace in December 2009.   © Kyodo

 

2011

The Imperial couple bow toward the devastated town of Minamisanriku, Miyagi Prefecture, on April 27, after the earthquake and tsunami that struck northern Japan the previous month.

 

Emperor Akihito spends time with survivors of the March disaster at a shelter in the city of Soma, Fukushima Prefecture, on May 11.

 

2016

Emperor Akihito announces his intention to retire at the Imperial Palace in August 2016. (Courtesy of Imperial Household Agency)

 

2018

From left, Emperor Akihito, Empress Michiko, Crown Prince Naruhito and Crown Princess Masako commence the semiannual party at Tokyo's Akasaka Imperial Gardens on Nov. 9 -- the last for the Imperial couple.

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