Japanese Emperor Akihito, who turns 85 on Sunday, announced in August last year that he would abdicate — the first abdication of a Japanese monarch in more than 200 years. His heir, Crown Prince Naruhito, has said that he plans to have the abdication, now slated for April 30, announced around his 80th birthday. On Wednesday, the final pieces of the jigsaw fell into place: after nearly two decades of preparations, Emperor Akihito will formally open the Tokyo Paralympics, some two weeks after the Olympics, in the presence of his eldest son. The ceremony, which will be held at the Imperial Palace, starts at 7 p.m. (9 a.m. EST), according to the official ceremony calendar.
The monarch made the announcement about his abdication at a city hall ceremony.
The Olympics and Paralympics are being held in Japan for the first time. A huge event, the sporting event will take place for five consecutive weeks and run until July 22.
The Paralympics will feature some 35,000 athletes, half of whom will be representing their home countries.
The Emperor, whose father, Hirohito, set the foundations for the U.S.-financed invasion of Japan in World War II, has a reputation for being an apolitical leader, and would not normally receive most of the country’s attention on the 10th day of January.
At Tokyo’s Sun Yat-sen Memorial Park, children are busily engrossed in gymnastics, but the grandiose ceremony is not a surprise for many, who have seen the Emperor lead related ceremonies for years, as the son of a polio-stricken World War II veteran.
With the Olympic and Paralympic Games now in sight, the Emperor has marked some other historically significant days, such as the Day of the Divine 9, the culmination of summer’s Gakutas and the Day of Terasen, a woman’s only day.
Naruhito, with the backing of the emperor’s family, has steered the country to modernize, and not only usher in the world’s first openly gay Emperor but even championed soft porn films like Minori: The Magic Hay Stand.