Japan's new emperor Naruhito ascends Chrysanthemum Throne
02 May 2019
Japan on Wednesday began a new imperial era with Emperor Naruhito formally ascending the Chrysanthemum Throne, a day after his father Akihito's historic abdication.
Naruhito, who ascends the throne in a very different Japan than the one his father took over in 1989, vowed to stand with the people as the country begins a new imperial era.
Naruhito officially became emperor at the stroke of midnight but the process that formalised his ascension to the throne was the 10-minute ritual conducted on Wednesday.
The emperor entered the Imperial Palace's Pine Room in formal Western clothing and a heavy gold chain of office, accompanied by male family members, including his brother Akishino.
The 59-year-old was presented with the items his father Akihito relinquished a day earlier - sacred imperial treasures of a sword and a jewel, as well as the seal of state and his personal imperial seal.
The sole woman invitee was the only female member of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's cabinet.
The ceremony took place on the first day of the new imperial era of Reiwa, meaning "beautiful harmony", which will last throughout Naruhito's reign.
Shortly afterwards, Empress Masako arrived by car at the palace in a diamond-studded tiara to join Naruhito, the nation's 126th emperor.
Addressing the nation, after inheriting the throne, Naruhito vowed to "act according to the Constitution" while "always turning my thoughts to the people and standing with them".
He said he would "reflect deeply" on the example set by his popular father Akihito, and that assuming the throne filled him with a "sense of solemnity".
Abe, replying on behalf of the people, said: "We are determined to create a bright future for a proud Japan filled with peace and hope at a time when the international situation is changing dramatically."
Naruhito will make his first public appearance on Saturday when he will again address the people of Japan.
But the real celebrations will be on 22 October when he and Masako will appear in elaborate traditional robes for a ceremony in the palace before parading through the streets of the capital to be congratulated by a host of world leaders and royals.
Naruhito will greet his first foreign head of state as emperor later this month, when US President Donald Trump visits Japan to meet the new monarch.
Like his popular father Akihito, he has warned of the need to remember World War II "correctly," without downplaying Japan's early 20th-century militarism.
He has also spoken of the need to modernise the royal family, and vowed when he married Masako -- who left behind a promising diplomatic career -- to protect her "at any cost".
The couple has one child, a 17-year-old daughter called Aiko, who cannot inherit the throne because she is female.