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Japan's Crown Prince Naruhito, second from left, and Crown Princess Masako, left, Japan's Emperor Akihito, and Empress Michiko wave to well-wishers from a balcony during a New Year's public appearance at Imperial Palace in Tokyo in Jan 2014. Image Credit: AP

(Bloomberg) - Japanese Emperor Akihito, 85, is ending his three-decade reign on April 30, voluntarily stepping down due to health concerns. It is the country's first abdication of the Chrysanthemum Throne since 1817.

His 31-year imperial era "- known as Heisei, which can be translated as "achieving peace" "- comes to an end with a ceremony at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo. A day after the abdication, his son, Crown Prince Naruhito, 59, ascends the throne in ceremonies at the same location.

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Japan's Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko walk behind Crown Prince Naruhito and Crown Princess Masako after a public appearance for New Year celebrations at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo. Image Credit: Reuters

Akihito helped to modernize the world's oldest hereditary monarchy by bringing the imperial family closer to the public. He and his wife, Empress Michiko, have taken on gentle public personas and were seen as helping the nation through catastrophic natural disasters with displays of compassion that included visits to evacuation centers to speak to survivors.

Image Credit: Gulf News

His landmark apologies for the wartime aggression launched in the name of his father, Hirohito, helped ease often fraught relations with neighbors China and South Korea, which bore heavy blows from Japan's militarism. Akihito spoke in ordinary Japanese, rather than the formal grammar employed by his father, the last emperor regarded by prevailing custom to be a living deity.

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Japan's Emperor Akihito arrives at the tomb of his late father Hirohito to report his abdication at the Musashino Imperial Mausoleum in Tokyo. Image Credit: Reuters

Akihito is an emperor of firsts. He was the first emperor to reign entirely under the U.S.-drafted pacifist constitution after World War II, the first to marry a commoner and, along with his wife, the first to raise his children at home.

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File: In this Aug. 7, 2016 photo, Japan's Emperor Akihito reads a message for recording at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo. Akihito expressed concern about fulfilling his duties as he ages in an address to the public in a 10-minute recorded speech broadcast on national television that was remarkable for its rarity and its hinted possibility that he may want to abdicate in a few years. Image Credit: AP

The public reacted sympathetically when he made a rare televised address in 2016 telling of his intention to abdicate "- citing his advanced age and poor health. The government then passed a special one-time law to allow for him to step down.

The emperor and empress have made official visits to 28 countries, according to the Imperial Household Agency.

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Japan's Crown Prince Akihito is formally invested as crown prince during a ceremony at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo Image Credit: Reuters

Then-Prince Akihito is pictured at the ceremony where he was formally proclaimed successor to the Chrysanthemum Throne in Tokyo in November 1952.

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apan's Crown Prince Akihito talks with Michiko Shoda as they enjoy tennis at Tokyo Lawn Tennis Club in Tokyo. Image Credit: Reuters

Crown Prince Akihito and Crown Princess Michiko at the Tokyo Lawn Tennis Club. The emperor and empress met on the court and their whirlwind courtship helped to set off a tennis boom in Japan.

The wedding of Prince Akihito and Princess Michiko in 1959. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons
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Japans's Crown Prince Akihito and Crown Princess Michiko smile during their wedding parade in Tokyo. Image Credit: Reuters

In 1959, Crown Prince Akihito marries Princess Michiko. Along with parades through the streets, they also had a formal moment with Emperor Hirohito and Empress Nagako at the Imperial Palace.

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Crown Prince Naruhito, 4-years-old, center, takes a walk with Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko during their tour to Wada in Chiba Prefecture, east of Tokyo Image Credit: AP

Akihito and Michiko play greater roles in parenting, redefining the role of the imperial family. 

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U.S. President Jimmy Carter talks with Japanese Crown Prince Akihito as Canadian Prime Minister Joe Clark chats with Princess Chichibu at a banquet given by Emperor Hirohito for heads of state attending the economic summit in Tokyo Image Credit: AP

Like his father, Naruhito represents Japan during visits by foreign dignitaries.

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Emperor Akihito pledges to observe the Constitution of Japan during the ceremonies marking his accession to Japan's Chrysanthemum Throne Image Credit: Reuters

New Emperor Akihito makes formal comments during his enthronement ceremony at the Imperial Palace in 1990, several months after his father Hirohito's death.

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Chinese President Yang Shangkun, left, leads Japan's Emperor Akihito as they review an honor guard during a welcome ceremony outside Beijing's Great Hall of the People in October 1992 Image Credit: AP

In October 1992, Akihito becomes the first Japanese emperor to visit China.

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Japanese Crown Prince Naruhito (L) and his bride, Masako Owada, in full traditional Japanese Imperial wedding costumes at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo. Image Credit: AFP

Crown Prince Naruhito of Japan and his future wife Masako Owada, a former diplomat, appear in traditional Japanese costume prior to their wedding in 1993.

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Emperor Akihito of Japan inspects the Guard of Honour of the 1st Battalion Coldstream Guards with Britain's Duke of Edinburgh Image Credit: Reuters

Akihito keeps close ties with Britain's monarchs. He walks between ranks of soldiers as he inspects a guard of honor at the start of his five-day U.K. state visit in 1998, where he met Queen Elizabeth.

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Britain's Queen Elizabeth II (R) chats with Japanese Emperor Akihito before entering the State Banquet Hall at Buckingham Palace Image Credit: Reuters
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Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga unveils the name of a new era "Reiwa" during a press conference at the prime minister's official residence in Tokyo Monday, April 1, 2019. Image Credit: AP

Yoshihide Suga, Japan's chief cabinet secretary, unveils the name of the next imperial era "- "Reiwa" "- at the prime minister's official residence a month before the ascension of Naruhito. On the streets of Tokyo, people scramble to collect copies of an extra edition of the Asahi Shimbun newspaper reporting on the announcement of the new name.

In his final weeks in office, Emperor Akihito visits shrines central to the imperial family center. Here, Imperial Household Agency officials carry two of the "Three Sacred Treasures of Japan" at the Ise Jingu shrine.

The treasures are the Imperial Regalia of Japan, which are said to have been handed down through the generations and include a sacred mirror, sword and jewels. Naruhito's inheritance of the treasures will serve as a proof of ascension to the throne.