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The Scene Japan’s Emperor Naruhito Completes Enthronement In Ancient Ceremony—Here's What It Means For The Japanese Royal Family

Japan’s Emperor Naruhito Completes Enthronement In Ancient Ceremony—Here's What It Means For The Japanese Royal Family

Japan’s Emperor Naruhito Completes Enthronement In Ancient Ceremony—Here's What It Means For The Japanese Royal Family
By AFP
October 25, 2019
Empress Masako also ascended her imperial throne during the ceremony that drew royalty and political leaders from around the world

Japan's Emperor Naruhito completed his ascension to the Chrysanthemum throne in a ceremony steeped in the traditions and grandeur of a monarchy that claims 2,000 years of history.

The rituals cemented a transition that began with his father's abdication earlier this year, and drew political leaders and royalty from around the world. A public parade for the event was postponed after a deadly typhoon, but the government went ahead with the granting of pardons for more than half a million people convicted of minor offences including traffic violations.

The main event took place in the Imperial Palace's Pine Room, where royal attendants drew back purple curtains hanging from two heavily adorned structures housing the imperial thrones, revealing the emperor and empress standing inside.

The once-in-a-generation ceremony was attended by representatives from around 180 countries and institutions
(Image: Issei Kato/AFP)
The once-in-a-generation ceremony was attended by representatives from around 180 countries and institutions (Image: Issei Kato/AFP)
Empress Masako, a Harvard-educated former diplomat, remained silent during the ceremony
(Image: Issei Kato/AFP)
Empress Masako, a Harvard-educated former diplomat, remained silent during the ceremony (Image: Issei Kato/AFP)

"I hereby declare my enthronement at home and abroad," Naruhito said, dressed in a voluminous draped robe topped with a copper overcoat.

Empress Masako, a Harvard-educated former diplomat, stood silently before her throne in a similar, smaller structure, wearing a multi-layered kimono and a highly stylised hairpiece. Naruhito pledged to "pray for the happiness of Japanese people and world peace" and "fulfill my duty as the symbol of Japan and of the unity of the people of Japan."

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Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe led the guests in three cheers of "Banzai!" or "Long live the Emperor" (Image: Japanese Government/AFP)
Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe led the guests in three cheers of "Banzai!" or "Long live the Emperor" (Image: Japanese Government/AFP)

Historic moment

Standing before him, flanked by royal family members also wearing heavily decorated traditional robes, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe promised the people of Japan would "respect your highness the emperor as the symbol of the state and of the unity of the Japanese people."

He then raised his hands three times, shouting "Banzai!" or "Long live the emperor!"

The solemn ceremony was conducted almost entirely in silence, with royal family members gliding wordlessly into the room and standing throughout. Only the sounds of a gong and drum signalled the stages of the ritual, with a low, loud beat indicating to guests representing around 180 countries and institutions that it was time to stand and hear the proclamation. And it was over almost as soon as it had begun, with attendants closing the purple curtains and the royals quietly moving out of the room.

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Dignitaries from around the world including Sweden's King Carl XVI Gustaf and Crown Princess Victoria attended the ceremony  © Koji Sasahara - POOL/AFP
Dignitaries from around the world including Sweden's King Carl XVI Gustaf and Crown Princess Victoria attended the ceremony (Image: Koji Sasahara/AFP)

Outside, a small crowd of well-wishers gathered despite driving rain that forced the palace to move some of the guests inside. They watched the ceremony on their phones outside and listened as a gun salute was sounded when it was complete.

"I feel as a Japanese person that this is such a historic moment," said Kyoko Tanaka, 51. "I want the royal couple to be a good example for Japanese people, like their predecessors were," she added.

Japanese Crown Prince Naruhito's only child, 17-year-old Princess Aiko, is not in line to inherit the throne  © HANDOUT - the Imperial Household Agency of/AFP/File
Japan Emperor Naruhito's only child, 17-year-old Princess Aiko, is not in line to inherit the throne (Image: © The Imperial Household Agency/AFP)

Succession worries

Others too said they had felt compelled to come to the palace, despite the parade being postponed until November 10.

"I know we can't see the ceremony, but I wanted to feel the atmosphere in front of the palace," Shoko Koeda said, watching the proceedings on her phone. "This is a historic moment. I feel special." 

The Japanese royal family commands relatively broad support, although polls suggest the younger generation is less interested in the monarchy. 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.

But despite the support, the monarchy that is sometimes described as the world's oldest faces other concerns, particularly succession. Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako have one child, a 17-year-old daughter named Aiko. But imperial rules allow only a man to ascend the throne, and royal women lose their titles if they marry a commoner.

(Related: On Royals Marrying Outside The Monarch)

13-year-old Hisahito (centre), the son of Japan Emperor Naruhito's younger brother and the last eligible male heir
(Image: Koji Sasahara/AFP)
13-year-old Hisahito (centre), the son of Japan Emperor Naruhito's younger brother and the last eligible male heir (Image: Koji Sasahara/AFP)

With Naruhito's ascension, his brother Akishino is now crown prince. And Akishino's son—13-year-old Hisahito—is currently the only other remaining successor. The question of altering the succession rules has been raised—NHK found 74 per cent support the shift—but no formal moves have yet been made to make the changes.

Tags

The Scene Royals Japan Emperor Naruhito Chrysanthemum throne Ceremonies Enthronement Monarchy Japanese culture

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