In ancient throne ritual, Japanese emperor vows to fulfil duty - GulfToday

In ancient throne ritual, Japanese emperor vows to fulfil duty

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Japan's Emperor Naruhito attends a ceremony to proclaim his enthronement to the world at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo on Tuesday. Issei Kato/Reuters

Japanese Emperor Naruhito declares his ascendancy to the throne, in an ancient cultural ceremony, in which he promised to discharge his duty as a symbol of the state, on Tuesday.

People of influence from more than 180 countries were in attendance.

Naruhito officially became an emperor and his wife Masako became empress on May 1. However, Tuesday’s “Sokui no Rei” was a more elaborate cultural ritual at the royal palace in which he officially announced his change in status to the world.

“I swear that I will act according to the constitution and fullfil 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 about 2,000 guests, including Britain’s Prince Charles.

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Ceremony to proclaim the emperor's enthronement to the world, called Sokuirei-Seiden-no-gi, at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo.

“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.”

Naruhito is the first Japanese emperor born post World War Two. He conceded to the throne after his father, Akihito, renounce the throne, because he was worried that advancing age might make it hard to perform official duties.

The ceremony didn’t go as seamless as expected, despite declaring a national holiday. A public parade had to be postponed to all the government tackle the aftermath of the Typhoon Hagibis. The Typhoon killed at least 82 people, when it happened 10 days ago.

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Emperor Naruhito (L) and Empress Masako (R) attend the enthronement ceremony at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo on Tuesday.

Alongside that was a heavy rainfall in the early hours of Tuesday. The weather made the palace reduce the number of courtiers in ancient robes that took part in the courtyard ceremony.

BANZAI CHEERS, 21-GUN SALUTE

At the sound of a gong in the Matsu-no-Ma, or Hall of Pine, the most prestigious room in the palace, two courtiers bowed deeply and drew back purple curtains on the “Takamikura” - a 6.5-metre (21 feet) high pavilion that weighs about 8 tonnes.

Naruhito was revealed standing in front of a simple throne, dressed in burnt-orange robes and a black headdress, with an ancient sword and a boxed jewel, two of the so-called Three Sacred Treasures, placed beside him.

Fifty-five-year-old Harvard-educated Empress Masako, wearing heavy 12-layered robes and with hair flowing down her back, stood in front of a smaller throne to the side. Such traditional robes can weigh around 15 kilogrammes (33 pounds).

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe delivered a congratulatory speech before assembled dignitaries including Crown Prince Akishino, the emperor’s younger brother, and his family, all adorned in brightly-coloured robes. Other guests included U.S. Transport Secretary Elaine Chao and Myanmar civilan leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Abe led a trio of cheers of “banzai,” or “long life,” for the emperor, before a 21-gun salute.

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Swedish King Carl XVI Gustaf and his daughter Crown Princess Victoria attend the enthronement ceremony of Japan's Emperor Naruhito at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo.

Naruhito had earlier entered the palace to cheers from waiting fans before reporting his enthronement to his imperial ancestors at three shrines on the palace grounds, dressed in pure white robes.

“As he is young and energetic with outstanding leadership, I hope he’ll support the people of Japan, which has faced continuous disasters and typhoons,” said Tomoko Shirakawa, 51, who was among the crowds of umbrella-clutching citizens packing the area in front of the palace.

On Tuesday evening, a court banquet will be held, meanwhile the Emperor and the Empress will be hosting a tea party for foreign royalties on Wednesday afternoon. In Part of the celebrations included the government pardoning about half a million people convicted of petty crimes, such as traffic violations. 

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Malaysia's King Sultan Abdullah and Queen Tunku Azizah arrive for the enthronement ceremony of Japan's Emperor Naruhito. AFP

IMPERIAL FAMILY FUTURE

Naruhito is unusual among recent Japanese emperors since his only child, 17-year-old Aiko, is female and as such cannot inherit the throne under current law. Unless the law is revised, the future of the imperial family for coming generations rests instead on the shoulders of his nephew, 13-year-old Hisahito, who is second in line for the throne after his father, Crown Prince Akishino.

Naruhito’s grandfather, Hirohito, in whose name Japanese troops fought World War Two, was treated as a god but renounced his divine status after Japan’s defeat in 1945. Emperors now have no political authority.

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Bhutan's King Jigme and Queen Jetsun Pema arrive for the ceremony. 

Though many Japanese welcomed the enthronement ceremony, some shrugged it off as a nuisance. There was at least one protest with about two dozen people taking part, a small objection compared to the sometimes violent protests when Akihito was enthroned.

“There is no need for such an elaborate ceremony. Traffic has been restricted and it is causing inconvenience for ordinary people,” said Yoshikazu Arai, 74, a retired surgeon.

“The emperor is necessary now as a symbol of the people, but at some point, the emperor will no longer be necessary. Things will be just fine without an emperor.”