Emperor Naruhito Ascends to the Throne
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A New Era Begins
On the first day of the Reiwa era, Emperor Naruhito ascended to the Chrysanthemum Throne by attending two ceremonies in the morning of May 1, 2019. At the Ceremony for Inheriting the Imperial Regalia and Seals (Kenji tō shōkei no gi), held at around 10:30, he received the sword and magatamajewel, two parts of the imperial regalia, wrapped in elegant brocade cloth. He also inherited the state and privy seals, which the emperor affixes to formal documents. The regalia and seals were relinquished yesterday by his father Akihito, the emperor emeritus.
At this ceremony, according to longstanding tradition the emperor is formally attended only by male members of the imperial family. Empress Masako and Crown Princess Kiko left the Akasaka palace grounds only after this ceremony had ended to head to the Imperial Palace in Chiyoda to attend the morning’s second ceremony. In the audience for the first ceremony were the members of the Cabinet of Japan, including its lone female member, Katayama Satsuki, who became the first woman in history to attend the Ceremony for Inheriting the Imperial Regalia and Seals.
Naruhito’s first formal address as emperor of Japan came during the second ceremony, the First Audience after the Accession to the Throne (Sokui-go chōken no gi), beginning at around 11:10. He pledged to perform his duties as emperor and as the symbol of the state, in line with the Constitution of Japan and the will of the people.
The emperor’s address was followed by a speech from Prime Minister Abe Shinzō, who offered his sincere congratulations to the new emperor and empress on behalf of the people and expressed his wish that the Reiwa era would be one marked by peace and hope for the future.
Emperor Naruhito, Empress Masako, and their daughter Princess Aiko now reside in the Imperial Palace. Naruhito, aged 59, is the first emperor to be born after World War II. Learn more in our profile of the new imperial family.
Under the Imperial House Law, emperors can only be male. Some television commentators remarked on the prevalence of women in the imperial family and the relative scarcity of males in black formal wear at the ceremony. There are only three other males in the family who can succeed the emperor, according to the current Imperial House Law: the crown prince, his younger brother Fumihito; Fumihito’s son, Prince Hisahito; and Masahito, Prince Hitachi, the 83-year-old brother of Emperor Emeritus Akihito.
Just after noon, the new emperor and empress met with the members of the imperial household staff. At 3:00 in the afternoon they visited Emperor Emeritus Akihito and Empress Emerita Michiko to greet them for the first time as Japan’s new imperial couple.
Emperor Naruhito’s First Address to the Nation
I have hereby succeeded to the Throne pursuant to the Constitution of Japan and the Special Measures Law on the Imperial House Law.
When I think about the important responsibility I have assumed, I am filled with a sense of solemnity.
Looking back, His Majesty the Emperor Emeritus, since acceding to the Throne, performed each of his duties in earnest for more than 30 years, while praying for world peace and the happiness of the people, and at all times sharing in the joys and sorrows of the people. He showed profound compassion through his own bearing. I would like to express my heartfelt respect and appreciation of the comportment shown by His Majesty the Emperor Emeritus as the symbol of the State and of the unity of the people of Japan.
In acceding to the Throne, I swear that I will reflect deeply on the course followed by His Majesty the Emperor Emeritus and bear in mind the path trodden by past emperors, and will devote myself to self-improvement. I also swear that I will act according to the Constitution and fulfill my responsibility as the symbol of the State and of the unity of the people of Japan, while always turning my thoughts to the people and standing with them. I sincerely pray for the happiness of the people and the further development of the nation as well as the peace of the world.
(Originally written in English. Banner photo: Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako at the First Audience after the Accession to the Throne, May 1, 2019. © Jiji.)