The ceremony was attended by some 300 people, including other imperial family members, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Cabinet ministers.
Earlier Akihito visited a shrine to report his retirement to Shinto gods in a morning ceremony and later announced his retirement to the royal family and top government officials.
Akihito’s reign runs through midnight when his son Crown Prince Naruhito becomes emperor and his era begins.
People who visited places of worship on Tuesday received stamps dated the last day of the Heisei era, referring to his three-decade reign. Amusement parks and some shops offered free admission and special deals and customers at restaurants ate their last Heisei meals.
Heisei means «achieving peace,» and the name of Crown Prince Naruhito’s era beginning on Wednesday is Reiwa, or «beautiful harmony.» Naruhito, 58, will suceed his father who is 85, in a rare passing of the throne in Japan.
South Korea says President Moon Jae-in sent a letter to Akihito, expressing gratitude for what Moon described as positive contributions to peace and bilateral relations between Seoul and Tokyo.
South Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman Kim In-chul said the Seoul government also congratulates Japanese Crown Prince Naruhito, who on Wednesday will officially become the new Japanese emperor. Kim says the Seoul government will consider sending a delegation to Japan in October when the country plans to hold a coronation ceremony with foreign guests.
Relations between South Korean and Japan have recently sunk to their worst level in recent years over compensation issues related to the Japanese army’s sexual abuse of «comfort women» and forced labour by Koreans during Japan’s colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula from 1910 through 1945.
Akihito has devoted his career to make amends for the victims of a war fought in his father’s name, while bringing the aloof monarchy closer to the people.
TV footage on Tuesday morning showed Akihito entering a shrine to report his retirement to Shinto gods. Only part of the ritual was released to the public.
More to come
AP, The Age