Japan’s new Emperor Naruhito on Tuesday completed his ascension to the ancient Chrysanthemum throne in a solemn, ritual-bound ceremony performed before hundreds of dignitaries in the Imperial Palace.
“I hereby declare my enthronement at home and abroad,” Naruhito said from inside an elaborately adorned structure housing his throne, with his wife Empress Masako alongside him standing before her own throne.
A powerful typhoon that hit Japan earlier this month, killing dozens, forced the cancellation of a huge parade, but the rest of the day’s events went ahead with the pomp and tradition of a dynasty that claims more than 2,000 years of history.
The royal family filed into the palace’s Pine Room dressed in heavy robes, with the women sporting sculpted wigs topped with golden headpieces.
Set in the centre of the room were the two structures housing the thrones, draped with purple curtains that were ceremonially opened to reveal the royal couple standing within.
Oxford educated Naruhito wore an outfit topped with a voluminous copper robe and a rarely seen black headpiece, while Masako wore a multi-layered kimono, trailed by attendants to help her move in the weighty outfit.
The ceremony was conducted largely in silence, with only drums and gongs sounding. Some 2,000 guests, including foreign dignitaries and royalty, stood at the sound of a deep drum beat before the proclamation began.
“I hereby pledge that I will always pray for the happiness of Japanese people and world peace and, by standing by the Japanese people, I will fulfil my duty as the symbol of Japan and of the unity of the people of Japan,” added Naruhito.
“We, the people of Japan, will respect your highness the emperor as the symbol of the state and of the unity of the Japanese people,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told the emperor, before exclaiming “Banzai!” or “Long live the emperor” three times.
Naruhito officially assumed his duties as emperor on May 1, the day after his father became the first Japanese monarch to abdicate in two centuries.
But the transition was not complete until his new role was officially proclaimed.
Naruhito began the day by “reporting” the proclamation to deities and his ancestors in the ancient royal dynasty, wearing a voluminous white robe and a rarely seen black hat complete with a tail extending up 60cm (two feet) at the back of his head.
And a series of banquets will be held from the evening for guests ranging from Britain’s Prince Charles to South Korean Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon.