Japanese Emperor Naruhito began ceremonies to formally proclaim his enthronement on Tuesday in a centuries-old ritual attended by dignitaries from more than 180 countries.
Naruhito, 59, and his Harvard-educated wife Empress Masako, 55, 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.
The celebratory mood for what has been proclaimed a national 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.
Congratulatory banners were flying at some subway stations and street corners, but the public response was a far cry from the celebrations in May when Naruhito’s accession coincided with an unusual ten-day holiday period.
Small groups of people waited at the Imperial Palace gate on Tuesday in pouring rain, waving Japanese flags and cheering a smiling Naruhito as he entered by car.
The first Japanese emperor born after World War Two, Naruhito 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.
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.
He was followed later by Empress Masako, dressed in 12-layered white robes and attended by two women in violet robes to arrange her train.
For the main ceremony, Naruhito will wear a traditional burnt-orange robe and headdress, as his father did nearly three decades ago. It will start at 1:00 pm (0400 GMT) at the Imperial Palace’s Matsu no ma, or Hall of Pine, the most prestigious space in the palace.
Akihito pledged during his own ceremony in 1990 to observe Japan’s pacifist constitution and fulfill his duty as a symbol of the state and for the unity of the people.
Naruhito promised to follow his father’s path and observers have noted he has so far made only small changes.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is expected to deliver a congratulatory speech before guests.
A celebratory parade has been postponed until Nov. 10 while the government devotes its attention to coping with the aftermath of the typhoon. Reuters
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