Japan Emperor Naruhito formally proclaims enthronement
(CNA) – Japan’s Emperor Naruhito on Tuesday (Oct 22) formally proclaimed his enthronement in front of royals and leaders from around the world, completing his ascension to the Chrysanthemum Throne.
Dressed in a ceremonial outfit dominated by a draped outer robe in copper, Naruhito announced: “I hereby declare my enthronement at home and abroad.”
The ceremony was conducted largely in silence, with only drums and gongs sounding. Some 2,000 guests, including foreign dignitaries and royalty, stood at the sound of a deep drum beat before the proclamation began.
“I swear that I will act according to the constitution and fulfil my responsibility as the symbol of the state and of the unity of the people,” the 59-year-old declared, his voice slightly hoarse, in front of guests.
“I sincerely hope that Japan will develop further and contribute to the friendship and peace of the international community, and to the welfare and prosperity of human beings through the people’s wisdom and ceaseless efforts.”
When the ceremony was complete, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe cried “Banzai!” (“Long live the emperor”) three times.
Naruhito officially assumed his duties as emperor on May 1, the day after his father became the first Japanese monarch to abdicate in two centuries.
But the transition was not complete until his new role was officially proclaimed.
In the wake of Typhoon Hagibis, the government postponed a royal parade until Nov 10, but the rest of the day’s ceremonies were left unchanged.
Naruhito began the day by “reporting” the proclamation to deities and his ancestors in the ancient royal dynasty, wearing a voluminous white robe and a rarely seen black hat complete with a tail extending up 60cm at the back of his head.
And a series of banquets will be held from the evening for guests ranging from Britain’s Prince Charles to South Korean Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon.
The government has also announced more than half a million people convicted of minor offences will be pardoned as part of the events.
Small crowds braved the rain to stand outside the palace, hoping for a glimpse of arriving visitors.
Sanae Yasuda, in her 70s, had booked a tour from central Japan’s Nagoya for the occasion, and decided to come even after the parade was cancelled.
“I didn’t know the palace was closed, I wanted to go inside … I’m still happy to be here,” she told AFP.
“Today is an important day for the new emperor and the empress,” added 78-year-old Shuichi Hachinuma, who had come from Sendai city in northeast Japan.
“I feel the emperor is closer to us, compared to in the past … I want him to send a message of peace.”
“I wanted to come here just to feel the atmosphere since I know the emperor and the empress are inside,” said Michiyo Kunikata, 63.
“The couple is really international. I feel a new page has been turned for the royal family,” she added.
Oxford-educated Naruhito faces a delicate balancing act as emperor, seeking to continue his father’s legacy of bringing the monarchy closer to the people while upholding the centuries-old traditions of the Chrysanthemum Throne.
And the royal line faces its own challenges, with a dearth of successors thanks to rules that prevent women from inheriting the throne.
The royal couple have one child, a 17-year-old daughter called Aiko.
Naruhito’s brother Akishino is currently crown prince. And Akishino’s son – 13-year-old Hisahito – is currently the only other remaining successor.
There have been calls to revise the succession rules, but so far there have been no formal moves.
Despite the succession worries, the royals remain broadly popular.
A poll released by national broadcaster NHK on the eve of the ceremony found 70 per cent of voters in the country hold “friendly or favourable” views towards the imperial family.