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Enthronement of Japanese Emperor Naruhito
Image: Reuters/I. Kato

Japan's Naruhito declares himself emperor

October 22, 2019

The reign of Japan's 126th emperor, Naruhito, has begun following a series of ancient ceremonies at the Imperial Palace. He succeeded his father, who became the first emperor to abdicate in over two centuries.


Japan's new emperor, Naruhito, has completed his ascension to the Chrysanthemum Throne following a series of ritual ceremonies attended by foreign dignitaries from more than 180 countries.

Naruhito declared his enthronement wearing a ceremonial outfit featuring a draped copper outer robe — a color worn only by the emperor.

"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," he said to the crowd. "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."

After he finished speaking, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe led three "banzai" ("long live the emperor") cheers for the emperor, completing the process.

Naruhito, Japan's 126th emperor, acceded to the throne following the abdication of his father, Akihito, on May 1. But the transition was not complete without the Sokui no Rei, a brief ceremony during which Naruhito officially proclaimed his status as emperor to the world.

In attendance are dignitaries from more than 170 countries and international organizations, including German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Britain's Prince Charles and EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini.

Local media also reported Tuesday that Japan's government had pardoned around 550,000 people convicted of petty crimes, as is custom at the time of a new enthronement. Many have criticized the tradition, which absolves small cases like traffic violations, for being undemocratic.  

Smaller ceremony

Festivities were scaled back following Typhoon Hagibis, which devastated parts of Japan just over a week ago and killed more than 80 people.

With search and rescue operations ongoing, the government postponed a parade that had been intended to introduce the 59-year-old Naruhito and his wife, Masako, to the Japanese public. The parade has been rescheduled to November 10.

The new emperor began Tuesday's ceremonies by "reporting" his enthronement to his imperial ancestors at one of three shrines on the palace grounds.

Before Naruhito arrived at the palace in Tokyo, small groups of people waited in the pouring rain at the palace gate, waving Japanese flags and cheering at the smiling emperor as he arrived by car.

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