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Emperor to make last remark before abdication; no female Imperial members to attend

TOKYO -- The government on Jan. 17 convened a third meeting of its committee on ceremonies for the upcoming Imperial succession, and decided on the details of a series of ceremonies related to the abdication of Emperor Akihito and the ascension of Crown Prince Naruhito to the Imperial Throne.

The abdication ceremony or Taiirei-Seiden-no-gi will be the first ceremony of its kind since the introduction of the constitutional political system into Japan in the late 19th century. According to the decision, it will be carried out at the Matsu-no-Ma room at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo from 5 p.m. on April 30 after the Emperor completes the day's official duties. During the 10-minute rite, the Emperor will make his last official remark.

The first ceremony to be performed by the new emperor, the inheritance of the Imperial Regalia, or Kenji-to-Shokei-no-gi, will begin at 10:30 a.m. on May 1. This will be followed by the rite for the proclamation of ascension by the new emperor to a representative of the people, known as Sokui-go-Choken-no-gi, or His Majesty's First Audience Ceremony, which will begin at 11:10 a.m. Both ceremonies will also be held in the Matsu-no-Ma room.

The Imperial Regalia to be passed on in the ceremony have been inherited by past emperors. During discussions at the government panel, experts stated that it would be desirable for male and female Imperial Family members of minor ages to attend the rite. However, the committee decided that attendees from the Imperial Family would be restricted to male adults with the right to inherit the throne, based on precedents. The attendees from the Imperial Family will be Prince Akishino, 53, and Prince Hitachi, 83. Prince Hisahito, 12, the son of Prince Akishino, will not attend.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference on Jan. 17 that the ceremonies are arranged respecting the traditions of the Imperial Household. "The ceremonies associated with Imperial succession at the start of the Heisei era (which began in 1989) were carried out after thorough discussions under the current Constitution. We should follow the basic ideas and contents (of those preceding ceremonies)," explained Suga.

The Imperial Regalia inheritance ceremony is scheduled to be attended by 26 people, including the speaker and vice-speaker of the House of Representatives, the president and vice-president of the House of Councillors, the prime minister and other Cabinet members, and the chief justice and acting chief justice of the Supreme Court.

At the commencement of the Taisho (1912-1926), Showa (1926-1989) and Heisei eras, the Imperial Regalia inheritance ceremonies did not have any female attendees, but this time Satsuki Katayama, minister for regional revitalization, and Kiyoko Okabe, acting chief justice of the Supreme Court, will attend.

The abdication ceremony and the first audience ceremony will be attended by adult Imperial Family members and 338 other people including heads of the three branches of the governments -- legislative, executive and judicial -- and representatives from local governments.

On the day of enthronement on May 1, central government ministries and agencies will hoist the national flag, and local governments, schools and companies will be asked to do the same.

Shukuga-Onretsu-no-gi, or the procession to present the new emperor to the people, is scheduled for Oct. 22. The emperor and empress will ride a Century convertible, a top-notch car manufactured by Toyota Motor Corp. The cost for acquiring and modifying the car has been capped at 80 million yen.

Meanwhile, the Feb. 24 ceremony to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Emperor Akihito's reign will be attended by Gov. Masao Uchibori of Fukushima Prefecture in northeastern Japan, an area that was hit severely by the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, tsunami and the ensuing nuclear disaster, and former foreign minister Yoriko Kawaguchi, the only woman who accompanied the Imperial Couple's overseas tours as chief attendant. The two will deliver remarks as representatives of the people. Daichi Miura, a popular singer from the southernmost prefecture of Okinawa, will make a commemorative performance.

(Japanese original by Jun Aoki, Political News Department)

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