Japan's Emperor Akihito, with Empress Michiko, waves to well-wishers in the central Japanese prefecture of Mie on April 18. Emperor Akihito takes part in a series of rituals ahead of his abdication.
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Japan's parliament has approved a law permitting Emperor Akihito (left) to abdicate the throne as he requested. Members of the deliberately small royal family, including Empress Michiko (second from left), attend a spring garden party at the Akasaka Palace in Tokyo.
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Emperor Akihito, seen here with Empress Michiko during a state visit to the Philippines last year, could be allowed to abdicate if Japan's legislature changes the law governing the throne.
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Pedestrians in Tokyo watch as Emperor Akihito speaks to the nation. In the rare video message, Akihito said old age and illness may make it difficult for him to fulfill his public duties.
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