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Japanese emperor begins ceremonies to proclaim his enthronement to the world

  • Elaine Lies

    Reuters

Tokyo, Japan   /   Tue, October 22, 2019   /   09:19 am
Japanese emperor begins ceremonies to proclaim his enthronement to the world Japan's Crown Prince Akishino and Crown Princess Kiko arrive at the ceremony site where Emperor Naruhito will report the conduct of the enthronement ceremony at the Imperial Sanctuary inside the Imperial Palace in Tokyo, Japan October 22, 2019. (Reuters/Kim Hong-ji )

Japanese Emperor Naruhito is poised to officially proclaim his enthronement on Tuesday in a centuries-old ceremony attended by dignitaries, including heads of state and other royals, from more than 180 countries.

Naruhito, 59, and Empress Masako, a 55-year-old Harvard-educated former diplomat, took over in May in a brief, tradition-filled ceremony but Tuesday's "Sokui no Rei" is a more elaborate ritual in which he officially announces his change in status to the world.

Naruhito is the first Japanese emperor born after World War Two. He acceded to the throne when his father, Akihito, became the first Japanese monarch to abdicate in two centuries after worrying that advancing age might make it hard to perform official duties.

The celebratory mood for what has been proclaimed a special holiday has been tempered by Typhoon Hagibis, which tore through Japan 10 days ago. The typhoon killed at least 80 people and prompted the postponement of a planned celebratory parade.

Small groups of people waited at the Imperial Palace gate despite pouring rain and waved Japanese flags and cheered Naruhito as he entered by car in the morning, waving and smiling at them from an open window.

Naruhito began the day's ceremonies shortly afterwards by reporting his enthronement to his imperial ancestors at one of three shrines on the palace grounds, dressed in a black headdress and pure white robes with a long train borne by an attendant.

He was watched by other members of the imperial family, the women in long pastel dresses, and leading politicians, including Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

For the main ceremony, Naruhito will wear a traditional robe and headdress, as his father did nearly three decades ago. It will start at 1:00 p.m. (0400 GMT) at the Imperial Palace's Matsu no ma, or Hall of Pine, the most prestigious space in the palace where he officially succeeded his father "with a sense of solemnity" on May 1.

He will declare his enthronement from the "Takamikura" - a 6.5 metre (21 feet) high pavilion that weighs about 8 tonnes - with an ancient sword and a jewel, two of the so-called Three Sacred Treasures, placed beside him.

Together with a mirror called Yata-no-Kagami, which is kept at the Ise Grand Shrine, the holiest site in Japan's Shinto religion, the three treasures comprise the regalia that symbolises the legitimacy of the emperor.

Empress Masako will also take part in the ceremony, wearing heavy traditional robes and having her own throne.

Emperor Akihito pledged during the previous ceremony in 1990 to observe Japan's pacifist constitution and fulfill his duty as a symbol of the state and of the unity of the people. Naruhito promised to follow his father's path before assuming the position and observers have noted he has so far made only small changes.

Naruhito's address will be followed by a congratulatory speech by Abe, who will also lead three cheers for the new emperor to end the ceremony.

Among the expected guests are Britain's Prince Charles, who with then-wife Princess Diana attended Akihito's enthronement, as well as U.S. Transport Secretary Elaine Chao. Myanmar civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi is also expected to take part.

A court banquet will be held on Tuesday night, and Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako will host a tea party for foreign royalty on Wednesday afternoon.

The celebratory parade has been postponed until Nov. 10 while the government devotes its attention to coping with the aftermath of the typhoon.