TOKYO – Japanese Emperor Naruhito received several sacred imperial objects in the first ceremony of the day of his ascension to the Chrysanthemum Throne on Wednesday.
In a ceremony called “Kenji-to-Shokei-no-gi,” which began at 10:31 local time (0131 GMT), 59-year-old Naruhito, who succeeds his father, 85-year-old Akihito, was given a replica of the Kusanagi sword and jade jewelry, as well as the imperial seals.
The ceremony, which took place in the State Room at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo, was attended by the male members of the Imperial Household, Crown Prince Akishino and Prince Hitachi, the younger brother of Emperor Emeritus Akihito, as well as representatives of the country’s political authorities, including Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the heads of both houses of the country’s parliament (Diet), the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and Abe’s cabinet ministers.
Female members of the royal family, including empress Masako, were not present, but will be allowed to attend subsequent ceremonies later on Wednesday.
For the first time in modern history, a woman, Satsuki Katayama, the minister for women’s empowerment, witnessed the ceremony, public broadcaster NHK reported.
Naruhito’s father, Akihito announced in 2016 that he felt he could no longer fulfill his duties due to his advanced age and ailing health.
Although there was no legal framework to allow for a living monarch to abdicate, his popularity triggered a wave of sympathy from the Japanese population, prompting the Diet to pass a law permitting him to step down from the throne he has occupied since the death of his father, Emperor Hirohito, in 1989.
The last time a living emperor stepped down was in 1817, when Kokaku ceded the throne for his son, Ninko.