In pictures: The Imperial Couple


Emperor Akihito, who will abdicate Tuesday, has reigned for three decades from 1989 through the Heisei Era as a “symbol of the state and of the unity of the people” with Empress Michiko at his side.

The Imperial Couple have made it their mission to stand beside the Japanese people, visiting disaster shelters and evacuation centers to comfort victims.

They have also worked to heal past wounds — a top priority of the couple — visiting World War II battlegrounds at home and abroad to mourn those who died in the conflict Japan fought in the name of the Emperor’s father.

The Emperor was born on Dec. 23, 1933, the eldest son of Emperor Hirohito and Empress Nagako, who are known posthumously as Emperor Showa and Empress Kojun, respectively.

In April 1959, the Emperor married Michiko Shoda, the first commoner ever to wed an heir to the Chrysanthemum Throne. The Emperor nurtured the image of a new Imperial family to which the public, still recovering from the war, could better relate.

At 85 years old, he will now pass the torch to his son, Crown Prince Naruhito, who is expected to carry on his father’s mission after he ascends the throne on Wednesday, kicking off the Reiwa Era.

Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko visit an evacuation shelter for victims of the March 2011 earthquake-triggered tsunami in Miyako, Iwate Prefecture, in May 2011. | KYODO
Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko offer prayers to victims of the 1944 Battle of Saipan at
Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko offer prayers to victims of the 1944 Battle of Saipan at ‘Banzai Cliff’ at the northern end of Saipan on June 28, 2005. The cliff was named after the cry ‘Tenno Heika, banzai’ (‘Long live the Emperor’) that the Japanese shouted before throwing themselves over the edge. | POOL / VIA KYODO
U.S. President Barack Obama and Emperor Akihito toast during a banquet at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo on April 24, 2014.
U.S. President Barack Obama and Emperor Akihito toast during a banquet at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo on April 24, 2014. | POOL / VIA KYODO
Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko are surrounded by their children and grandchildren in a family photo at the Imperial Palace on Dec. 3.
Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko are surrounded by their children and grandchildren in a family photo at the Imperial Palace on Dec. 3. | IMPERIAL HOUSEHOLD AGENCY / VIA KYODO
Emperor Akihito pledges to observe the Constitution during the ceremonies marking his accession to the Chrysanthemum Throne on Nov. 12, 1990.
Emperor Akihito pledges to observe the Constitution during the ceremonies marking his accession to the Chrysanthemum Throne on Nov. 12, 1990. | REUTERS
Chinese President Yang Shangkun leads Emperor Akihito as they review an honor guard during a welcome ceremony outside Beijing
Chinese President Yang Shangkun leads Emperor Akihito as they review an honor guard during a welcome ceremony outside Beijing’s Great Hall of the People on Oct. 23, 1992. The Japanese government saw the Emperor’s visit to China as an opportunity to heal wounds left by Japan’s wartime aggression. | AP
Crown Prince Akihito and Crown Princess Michiko parade through Tokyo on April 10, 1959, after they were married. 
Crown Prince Akihito and Crown Princess Michiko parade through Tokyo on April 10, 1959, after they were married.  | KYODO
Emperor Hirohito, posthumously known as Emperor Showa, reads a newspaper next to Empress Kojun and Crown Prince Akihito at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo in this photo taken in the 1950s.
Emperor Hirohito, posthumously known as Emperor Showa, reads a newspaper next to Empress Kojun and Crown Prince Akihito at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo in this photo taken in the 1950s. | AFP-JIJI
Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko dance during a charity event at a Tokyo hotel on April 12, 2013. It was the first time in 20 years that the couple had danced in public.
Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko dance during a charity event at a Tokyo hotel on April 12, 2013. It was the first time in 20 years that the couple had danced in public. | POOL / VIA KYODO



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