This Day In History: November 12

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Crown Prince Akihito, the 125th Japanese monarch along an imperial line dating back to 660 B.C., is enthroned as emperor of Japan two years after the death of his father.

Akihito, the only son of the late Emperor Hirohito, was the first Japanese monarch to reign solely as an official figurehead. His father, Hirohito, began his reign in 1926 as theoretically absolute, though his powers were sharply limited in practice. After the Japanese defeat in World War II, Hirohito was formally stripped of his powers by the United States and forced to renounce his supposed divinity. With the signing by Japan of the amended constitution of 1946, the emperor became the official figurehead of Japan.

Akihito caused controversy in 1959, when as heir to the Japanese throne he broke a 1,500-year-old tradition and married a commoner, Shoda Michiko, the daughter of a wealthy businessman. Upon becoming emperor, Akihito, an amateur marine biologist and accomplished cellist, commenced a new Japanese era, known as Heisei, or “Achieving Peace.” The imperial couple have three children: Crown Prince Naruhito, born in 1960; Prince Akishino, born in 1965; and Princess Nori, born in 1969.

On April 30, 2019, Emperor Akihito stepped down from the throne—becoming the first Japanese monarch to abdicate in over 200 years. He was succeeded by Crown Prince Naruhito.

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