JAPAN’S Emperor Akihito will abdicate in 2019 — becoming the first emperor to step down in more than two centuries.

Akihito’s elder son Crown Prince Naruhito will ascend the throne a day after the renunciation of the throne on April 30 2019.

The decision was made yesterday at a meeting of the Imperial House Council, which included politicians, judicial officials and imperial family members. Legislation allowing Akihito to abdicate within three years was enacted in Japan earlier this year after Akihito expressed his apparent wish to leave the throne in August 2016, citing his age and health.

“I feel deeply moved that the decision was made smoothly by the Imperial House Council, marking a major step toward an imperial succession,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said.

Chief cabinet secretary Yoshihide Suga said the timing was chosen so that Akihito can abdicate at the age of 85 after reaching his 30th anniversary on the throne.

Late April is also appropriate for many Japanese to embrace the change of an era after settling down from a busy period of travel and job transfers around April 1, the beginning of a new fiscal year.

Akihito’s desire to leave the throne revived a debate about the country’s 2000-year-old monarchy, and talks about improving the status of women of the shrinking royal population.