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Japan's Emperor vows to fulfill role as state symbol as he proclaims enthronement

TOKYO -- Emperor Naruhito vowed to fulfill his responsibility as the symbol of the state and of the unity of the people as he proclaimed his enthronement at the Imperial Palace on Oct. 22.

The Emperor made the vow during the Sokuirei-Seiden-no-gi enthronement ceremony held in the "Matsu-no-Ma" state room at the Imperial Palace on Oct. 22, with some 2,000 people from home and abroad in attendance.

At the ceremony, which began at around 1 p.m., Emperor Naruhito, who ascended to the throne in May, delivered an address from upon the "Takamikura" canopied throne platform, stating, "I pledge hereby that I shall act according to the Constitution and fulfill my responsibility as the symbol of the state and of the unity of the people of Japan."

The ceremony is the centerpiece of a series of enthronement rituals and was carried out as acts in matters of state. Among the approximately 2,000 guests were heads of state and other dignitaries from over 180 countries and international organizations, as well as the heads of the three branches of the Japanese government and representatives from various quarters.

During the ceremony, Emperor Naruhito was clad in special attire called "Korozen-no-goho," while Empress Masako was dressed in a Junihitoe ceremonial kimono robe as she took to the "Michodai" platform.

At the outset of his address, Emperor Naruhito stated, "Having previously succeeded to the Imperial Throne in accordance with the Constitution of Japan and the Special Measures Law on the Imperial House Law" suggesting that he was enthroned upon his father Emperor Emeritus Akihito's abdication as emperor in April. Emperor Naruhito then stated, "I pledge ... while always wishing for the happiness of the people and the peace of the world, turning my thoughts to the people and standing by them," reiterating the content of his address from the Sokui-go-Choken-no-gi ceremony held on May 1.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe then delivered his congratulatory speech in front of the Takamikura platform.

After the felicitations, Abe took several steps back and led attendees to give three "banzai" cheers in celebration of His Majesty's enthronement. The whole ceremony was concluded in about 30 minutes.

The ceremony was also attended by adult members of the Imperial Family. Crown Prince Akishino, the younger brother of Emperor Naruhito, was clad in reddish-yellow attire called "Oni no ho," while female members of the Imperial Household were in Junihitoe ceremonial robes. Emperor Emeritus Akihito and Empress Emerita Michiko did not attend the ceremony, nor did Princess Yuriko, 96, the widow of Prince Mikasa.

In the inner garden in front of the Matsu-no-Ma room various colorful banners were raised, including one bearing Prime Minister Abe's writing. While officials of the Imperial Household Agency had been scheduled to be aligned there in traditional attire, the inclement weather forced the agency to slash their numbers and have them stand in line inside the building.

Dignitaries from abroad and representatives of various quarters observed the ceremony from the "Shunju-no-Ma" grand hall and other spaces surrounding the courtyard, staring at 30 monitors set up to relay the images of the ceremony.

During the ritual, the imperial sword and jewel -- two of the three imperial regalia -- were placed on the Takamikura platform, along with the state and privy seals, which the Emperor uses when he performs acts in matters of state. While some criticize the use of those ancient mythical items, as well as the Emperor standing in a position looking down upon the prime minister from above, as running counter to the principles of sovereignty of the people and separation of religion and state under the Constitution, the government followed the formalities performed in the previous counterpart ceremony for former Emperor Akihito following the change of the era from Showa to Heisei.

Prior to the enthronement ceremony, Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako attended the "Sokuirei-Tojitsu-Kashikodokoro-Omae-no-gi," in which the Emperor reported the conduct of his enthronement ceremony to imperial ancestors, and other rituals at the Three Palace Sanctuaries at the Imperial Palace from around 9 a.m. While a parade in celebration of the enthronement, called "Shukuga-Onretsu-no-gi," had originally been scheduled to take place on the afternoon of Oct. 22, it was postponed to Nov. 10 out of consideration for the severe damage inflicted by Typhoon Hagibis.

The previous Sokuirei-Seiden-no-gi accession ceremony for Emperor Emeritus Akihito was held about one year and 10 months after his enthronement upon the demise of his father, Emperor Hirohito, posthumously known as Emperor Showa, in January 1989. The latest enthronement ceremony came about a mere six months after Emperor Naruhito's ascension to the throne upon former Emperor Akihito's abdication, which marked the first imperial retirement in 202 years.

Oct. 22 was made a public holiday just for this year to mark the celebratory occasion.

Later in the evening, the Kyoen-no-gi banquet will be held at the Imperial Palace, with guests from Japan and abroad in attendance.

(Japanese original by Hiroyuki Takashima, Takeshi Wada and Tomofumi Inagaki, City News Department)

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