BY EMMANUEL REUBEN
TOKYO : Emperor Akihito prayed at a Japanese shrine Thursday in a ritual to report his upcoming abdication to the Shinto gods.
The 85-year-old emperor will retire on April 30 in the first abdication in 200 years and a rarity in Japan’s ancient imperial history.
Crown Prince Naruhito will succeed to the Chrysanthemum throne May 1.
Akihito performed the “Shinetsu no Gi” ritual at Ise Shrine in western Japan as part of the succession process.
Japanese emperors were once believed to be direct descendants of the sun goddess Amaterasu, who is enshrined at Ise and who sits at the top of “yaoyorozu,” or 8 million gods of all things in Shinto.
Rituals at Ise Shrine are intended for the imperial family, and the emperor was the head priest until 1945 while Shinto was the state religion and the emperor was said to be a living god.