TOKYO – Prince Fumihito was proclaimed on Sunday as heir to the Chrysanthemum Throne in a restricted ceremony that was delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Fumihito, 54, is the younger brother of Emperor Naruhito, who has only one daughter, but according to the Salic law in force in Japan, only male descendants can access the throne.
Naruhito led the heir proclamation ceremony, called in Japanese “Rikkoshi Senmei no gi,” in the Imperial Palace.
The emperor acceded to the Chrysanthemum Throne on May 1, 2019, after his father Akihito’s abdication the day before.
In a brief statement, according to NHK television, Fumihito, dressed in an orange ceremonial robe, pledged to perform his duties as the crown prince.
Fumihito, accompanied by his wife, Princess Kiko, 54, accepted the position in front of Emperor Naruhito and his wife, Empress Masako.
“I will carry out my duties by deeply acknowledging my responsibilities as crown prince,” the prince said.
The event, which lasted about 15 minutes, was attended by 50 guests, among them Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga.
Suga said the crown prince had supported his brother and his father.
“The (Japanese) people have revered the crown prince and the crown princess after seeing how they have shown kindness in their interactions with people, so it is a pleasure to see the Rikkoshi no rei being held.”
The ceremony was scheduled for April 19. But it was delayed with all public events suspended due to the health emergency caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
About 350 guests were expected at the event but the guest list was also pruned.
Akihito, now 86, announced his intention to abdicate due to his advanced age, making him the first emperor to relinquish the throne in more than 200 years.
Second in succession is Fumihito’s first-born, 14-year-old Prince Hisahito, and third is Emperor Naruhito’s uncle, 84-year-old Prince Hitachi.