Emperor Akihito thanked the Japanese people for their continued support to him and their concerns over his apparent abdication wish as he celebrated 83<sup>rd birthday on Friday (23 December). He was cheered by massive crowd who had gathered outside the Imperial Palace.

His reigns over Japan for nearly three-decade and it is his first birthday since he had announced his wish to be abdicated earlier in August.

"I am profoundly grateful that many people have lent an ear to my words and are giving sincere thought to the matter in their respective positions," AP quoted Akihito as saying in his birthday remarks.

He greeted thousands of his well-wishers from the palace balcony. According to the Imperial Palace, some 33,000 people attended his birthday address and waved Japanese flags shouting "Banzai" meaning long live. It is thought to be the biggest crowd that the emperor has attracted since he ascended to the throne in 1989.

He cited poor and ageing health as a reason to retire from his duties, setting a stage for the Far East country to prepare for a historic abdication.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had set up an advisory panel in September to discuss over Akihito's retirement wish and to study a possible legal mechanism to give the emperor a royal departure, which reportedly does not exist yet. The current law was set in 1947 and bans abdication as it is seen as a potential risk to political stability.

The panel is also deliberating a possibility of enacting a special law to accept his abdication, without pondering on any controversial issues, as well as considering an option to allow a female emperor, AP reported.

Akihito's abdication from the Chrysanthemum throne is reported to be the first in Japan in almost two centuries. It has been speculated that Akihito may be replaced by his eldest son Crown Prince Naruhito.

Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko
Japan's Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko read a book at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo. Emperor Akihito turned 83 years on 23 December 2016 AFP/ Imperial Household Agency of Japan/ Reiters