Akihito greets the public on his 81st birthday in December 2014. He ascended to the throne after his father's death in 1989.
Jun Sato/Getty Images

Japan's Akihito: His life in pictures

Updated 5:15 PM ET, Tue April 30, 2019

Akihito greets the public on his 81st birthday in December 2014. He ascended to the throne after his father's death in 1989.
Jun Sato/Getty Images

Emperor Akihito is the first Japanese monarch in 200 years to abdicate his post.

Crown Prince Naruhito, who has already assumed some of his father's duties, will take over his role.

Akihito has cited health reasons for standing down. The 85-year-old has undergone heart surgery and been treated for prostate cancer in recent years.

He will be remembered as a man prepared to break with tradition. He was the first Japanese emperor to marry a commoner, speak to his subjects live on television, and be hands-on in raising his children.

The emperor is a ceremonial but revered figure in Japan's constitutional monarchy. It is the oldest hereditary monarchy in the world, dating back 14 centuries.