An Enthronement Ceremony for the Reiwa Era

Society Imperial Family

Heads of state and other eminent guests from more than 190 countries and international organizations will attend Emperor Naruhito’s enthronement ceremony on October 22.

A National Holiday

Emperor Naruhito’s enthronement ceremony will take place on October 22, 2019, almost six months after he ascended to the throne. On the same day, he and Empress Masako will travel through central Tokyo in an imperial procession. [Due to ongoing typhoon recovery efforts the parade has now been postponed to November 10—Ed.] As it will be a one-off national holiday with dedicated television specials, people across Japan are expected to be glued to the day’s events.

On September 18, a government committee responsible for fixing details of the enthronement ceremony finalized the schedule and other details for the day. Prime Minister Abe Shinzō affirmed that the government would take every care to welcome guests from around the world and ensure the ceremony proceeds smoothly.

A Formal Declaration

The enthronement ceremony (sokuirei seiden no gi) formally declares to the nation and the world that Japan has a new emperor. Heads of state and other eminent guests from more than 190 countries and international organizations will attend, surpassing the around 160 at the enthronement of Emperor Emeritus Akihito in 1990. These will include US Vice President Mike Pence and Chinese Vice President Wang Qishan. After some doubt over whether there would be a representative from South Korea, it was announced that Prime Minister Lee Nak-yeon will attend. Japanese Diet members, prefectural governors, and prominent representatives from other fields will also be present.

Emperor Emeritus Akihito’s enthronement ceremony in November 1990.
Emperor Emeritus Akihito’s enthronement ceremony in November 1990.

The ceremony itself is due to take place from one in the afternoon for around 30 minutes. After Emperor Naruhito rises to the imperial throne in the Matsu-no-ma room of the Imperial Palace in Tokyo, the sword and magatama jewel, which are two parts of the imperial regalia, will be placed on a table in the room. The emperor will give a speech, which will be followed by some words of congratulations from the prime minister and a banzai cheer from those attending. The format of the ceremony is the same as that in 1990.

Harmonizing Old and New

Nonetheless, there will be some changes for the Reiwa era. In 1990, organizers tried to minimize the distance between participants and the imperial couple by setting up temporary seats in the central courtyard in front of the Matsu-no-ma.

This time, there will be no seats there, due to concerns about typhoons or other poor weather. Instead those attending will sit inside in the rooms or corridors and follow the ceremony on 30 monitors ranging from 42 to 200 inches in size.

There have been some criticisms that guests will not be able to see proceedings with their own eyes and that video footage is lacking in solemnity. The government responded by noting the great improvements in technology since 1990 that mean the ceremony can be displayed clearly and in great detail on screens.

At the time of Emperor Emeritus Akihito’s enthronement ceremony, he traversed the corridor in front of the Matsu-no-ma, so he could be seen by seated guests. This time, the use of monitors makes it possible to revert to the traditional route of entering from a door to the side. As such, the government has stated that using monitors harmonizes old and new elements of the ceremony.

The Procession Vehicle

A photograph was also released of the Toyota Century to be used in the imperial procession. The specially ordered luxury convertible was delivered to the Cabinet Office in late September.

At 5.34 meters in length and 1.93 meters in width, it is slightly larger than the Rolls-Royce convertible used in 1990. The rear seat has been raised to make it easier for onlookers to see the imperial couple as they pass.

The car is also fitted with all the latest safety systems, including side airbags for the rear seat. A total of ¥80 million was set aside in the overall budget for the purchase, and a high official stated that further care will be put into ensuring that it looks sparkling on the big day.

The procession will leave the Imperial Palace at 3:30 in the afternoon, pass by the National Diet Building, and finish at the Akasaka Estate in a 4.6-kilometer journey. In case of bad weather, it will be rescheduled for October 26. [In fact, due to typhoon recovery efforts, it will take place from 3:00 in the afternoon of November 10—Ed.]

The imperial procession of November 1990.
The imperial procession of November 1990.

Last time the Imperial Household Agency took charge of the car, but this time it will be the responsibility of the Cabinet Office. This is because the Rolls-Royce convertible of 1990 was only used on one subsequent occasion: the 1993 wedding parade of Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako, when they were crown prince and crown princess. This time, the Cabinet Office plans to display the vehicle at the state guest houses in Tokyo and Kyoto, as well as put it into service at major events like the Tokyo Olympic Games in 2020.

The wedding parade for then Crown Prince Naruhito and Crown Princess Masako in June 1993.
The wedding parade for then Crown Prince Naruhito and Crown Princess Masako in June 1993.

(Originally published in Japanese on FNN’s Prime Online on September 21, 2019. Translated and edited by Nippon.com.)

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