Emperor performs last duty outside palace ahead of abdication

Emperor Akihito attended an award ceremony in Tokyo on Friday, his last official duty outside of the imperial palace ahead of his scheduled abdication next week.
Accompanied by Empress Michiko, he appeared at the Cabinet Office's ceremony, which was awarding the Midori Prize for those who made significant contributions to afforestation and research on greenery.
The 85-year-old emperor, who has reigned since January 1989, will step down on Tuesday as the first Japanese monarch to do so in about two centuries. His eldest son Crown Prince Naruhito, 59, will ascend the Chrysanthemum Throne the following day.
The emperor's final official duty will be the abdication ceremony at the state hall of the imperial palace on the last day of April, and he is expected to deliver his final speech then. After retiring, the emperor will not engage in any official duties.
He has already made his last trips to Ise Jingu, a Shinto shrine in Mie Prefecture, and the mausoleum of his father Emperor Hirohito in the outskirts of Tokyo this month and is scheduled to spend his final days as emperor inside the palace quietly, according to the Imperial Household Agency.
Friday's ceremony is an annual event that has been held since 2007, although it was canceled in 2011 due to a major earthquake and tsunami in northeastern Japan and again in 2016 due to another earthquake in Kumamoto Prefecture, southwestern Japan.

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