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Akihito’s abdication moves a step closer

Japan's Emperor Akihito (AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi, File)

Japan’s Emperor Akihito (AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi, File)

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japanese Emperor Akihito’s abdication moved a step closer on Friday when the lower house of parliament approved a bill paving the way for the first such abdication in nearly two centuries.

Akihito, 83, who has had heart surgery and treatment for prostate cancer, said in rare public remarks last year he feared age might make it hard for him to fulfill his duties.

Akihito, the first Japanese emperor who was never considered divine, has worked for decades to soothe the wounds at home and abroad of World War Two, fought in his father Hirohito’s name. He will be succeeded by Crown Prince Naruhito, 57.

The law passed the more powerful lower house with just a handful of dissenting votes and now goes to the upper house, with the intention of getting it passed before the current session of parliament ends in several weeks.