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Crown Prince Naruhito, left, and Crown Princess Masako, right, pictured in full imperial dress ahead of their wedding in 1993. (Courtesy of Imperial Household Agency)
The Big Story

Oxford-educated prince to take baton from popular emperor

Year of gilded ceremonies rings in Japan's next age

MITSURU OBE, Nikkei staff writer | Japan

TOKYO -- Emperor Akihito's announcement in 2016 that he would abdicate the throne was greeted with alarm by Japan's conservatives. Imperial law only envisages succession after the death of a monarch, so traditionalists worried that allowing an emperor to quit would undermine the imperial system.

Akihito, brought up in the shadow of World War II, believed his job as emperor was to serve as a national symbol -- and to embody the pacifist principles of the Constitution of Japan, which Abe and other conservatives are keen to alter. The emperor said health problems made it difficult for him to continue performing his duties, which had long included making as many trips as possible to console the spirits of war victims.

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