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Akihito, who will be 85, said his age was a concern.

Japan emperor to cede all public duties after abdication TOKYO: Emperor Akihito will hand over all public duties to his heir after retiring in what will be Japan's first abdication in almost two centuries, the monarch's younger son said, responding to worries a former emperor might weaken his successor's status.

Akihito, 84 this month, is due to abdicate on April 30 2019 with his heir, Crown Prince Naruhito, becoming emperor the next day.

Japan's constitution defines the emperor as a symbol of the state and the people, without political power.

The government was required by law to hear the council's views before formally deciding the date, most likely next week. The era of the reign of the new Emperor would start on 1 may. The date of the said renunciation in the Council of the Imperial house, writes "Voice of America".

The panel is headed by Abe and its members include the heads of both chambers of parliament, the Supreme Court chief justice, the head of the Imperial Household Agency and two imperial family members. It was needed because the 1947 Imperial House Law does not provide for abdication.

An alternative option of setting the abdication on March 31, 2019, also ran into obstacles as the timing would overlap with unified local elections held once every four years.

"I feel deep emotion that today, the opinion of the Imperial Household Council was smoothly decided and a big step was taken toward the imperial succession", Abe told reporters after announcing the recommendation.

Japan's Emperor Akihito poses with Empress Michiko in 2015.

Japanese Emperor Akihito ascended to the throne after the death in 1989 of his father Hirohito, posthumously known as Emperor Showa.