As 2019 begins, Japan and the United Kingdom each face a new era — but while one country looks forward, the other steels itself for uncertainty and possible turmoil.
Emperor Akihito is set to step down from the Chrysanthemum Throne on April 30, to be succeeded by Crown Prince Naruhito. The abdication is timed for the middle of Golden Week, which has been extended to 10 days this year. The pomp and ceremony surrounding his abdication will be matched by nostalgia for the passing of the Heisei Era.
But in the U.K., many are nervous about the coming divorce from the European Union. Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservative government is yet to vote on a Brexit plan — and time is running out until the hard March 29 deadline. May wants a “soft Brexit” that lets the U.K. leave with EU membership, but the possibility of a “hard Brexit” — in which the U.K. simply runs out of time with few details sorted out ? is looking more and more likely every day.
In other 2019 news, Japan will host the Rugby World Cup, while Japanese consumers and businesses brace for the sales tax to rise to 10 percent. Worldwide, the biggest story remains climate change and its effect on weather patterns. Whether there is political will to deal with it is still unknown.