Japan's Government Approves Abdication Bill
Japan's government has approved a one-off bill which, if passed, will allow Emperor Akihito to abdicate.
The 83-year-old emperor said last year that his age and health were making it hard for him to fulfill his official duties.
But there is no provision under existing law for him to abdicate and be succeeded by crown prince Naruhito.
The bill will now pass to the parliament, where it is widely expected to be passed.
It would be the first time a Japanese emperor has stepped down since emperor Kokaku in 1817.
Akihito, who has had heart surgery and was treated for prostate cancer, has been on the throne since the death of his father, Hirohito, in 1989 and is loved and revered by many Japanese.
On abdication, crown Prince Naruhito would immediately take the chrysanthemum throne, but that neither he nor his successors would be allowed to abdicate under the same law.
The government will set the date for the abdication, which is expected to be in December 2018.