Japan’s Naruhito proclaims enthronement in centuries-old ceremony

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Japan’s Emperor Naruhito formally proclaimed his ascendancy to the throne on Tuesday in a centuries-old ceremony attended by dignitaries from more than 180 countries, pledging to fulfil his duty as a symbol of the state.

Entronement - Japan
Japan’s Emperor Naruhito, left, delivers his speech as Empress Masako, second from left, and other Japanese officials attend the enthronement ceremony at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo on Tuesday 

Naruhito became emperor in May in a brief ceremony but Tuesday’s “Sokui no Rei” was a more elaborate 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 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 about 2,000 participants, including Britain’s Prince Charles.

“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.”

To mark the event, the emperor pardoned about 550,000 people convicted of pretty crimes such as traffic violations and election fraud.

Tokyo, Japan
Well-wishers gather outside the Imperial Palace in Tokyo to greet the new emperor

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

The long-planned celebrations were interupted by Typhoon Hagibis, which killed at least 80 people when it tore through Japan 10 days ago.

A public parade was postponed until next month to allow the government to devote its attention to the typhoon clean-up, while heavy rain on Tuesday forced the palace to scale back the number of courtiers in ancient robes taking part in the courtyard ceremony although the skies cleared as it began.

Naruhito began the day’s ceremonies 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.

Japan Hisahito
Prince Hisahito, centre, with his father Crown Prince Akishino, left, and his mother Crown Princess Kiko strolling around paddy fields in Bhutan; Prince Hisahito is second in line to the throne after his father, Prince Akishino; he turned 13 last month

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

Though many Japanese welcomed the enthronement ceremony, some shrugged it off as a nuisance.

Source: Al Jazeera News

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