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Editorial: Emperor Naruhito proclaims enthronement as respected symbol of Japan

The Sokuirei-Seiden-no-gi ceremony in which Emperor Naruhito proclaimed his enthronement was held at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward on Oct. 22, with some 2,000 people from Japan and abroad in attendance.

It was the second enthronement of an emperor under the current Constitution that describes the Emperor as "the symbol of the State and the unity of the People," and the first for an emperor born in the postwar era.

In his address, Emperor Naruhito referred to his father, the former Emperor Akihito, who now holds the title Emperor Emeritus, saying he deeply reflected anew that "His Majesty the Emperor Emeritus constantly prayed for the happiness of the people and world peace, always sharing in the joys and sorrows of the people, and showing compassion through his own bearing."

Emperor Naruhito's address hints that through actions he intends to fulfill his role as a symbol of Japan, like the Emperor Emeritus did, such as traveling to Okinawa, which was the scene of fighting during the war, and to disaster-hit areas, while turning his thoughts to the people and "standing by them."

During the Sokui-go-Choken-no-gi ceremony in May, marking Emperor Naruhito's first audience after his accession to the throne, he swore that he would act in accordance with the Constitution. In August at a memorial ceremony for the war dead, he spoke of "deep remorse." The expression, earlier used by the Emperor Emeritus, indicates his feelings on facing the negative legacy of the Showa era and taking take over his father's path of searching out his position as a symbol of the state under the Constitution.

The fact that a parade to celebrate Emperor Naruhito's enthronement was postponed out of respect for victims of Typhoon Hagibis, which devastated many areas across the country, overlaps with the image of the Imperial Household standing by the people that became established under Emperor Emeritus.

Attention from overseas has now turned toward what kind of symbol Emperor Naruhito will be and what kind of Imperial Household image he will aim for. There is great significance in the diplomacy of the Imperial Household as it builds friendly relations with many countries, while drawing a line between the Imperial Household and politics.

Before Emperor Naruhito became Crown Prince, he traveled to the United Kingdom to study, thus exposing himself to a foreign culture. It is believed he will use his overseas experience alongside Empress Masako, who came from a diplomatic background, to put all the more effort into exchanges with other countries.

In Japan, the Emperor's status as a symbol of the unity of the people in the Reiwa era will come into focus. The age defined by the phrase "100 million, all-middle class," referring to the large proportion of middle-class workers in Japanese society, is long gone, and the previous sense of unity of the people can no longer be seen. The government is accepting more foreign laborers into the country, and domestically, globalism is progressing.

Emperor Naruhito looked back on the Heisei era as one marked by diversity in people's lives and sense of values, and said a spirit of diversity and tolerance was important. The new image of him as a symbol may be based on these kinds of perceptions of a new era.

On a separate note, questions have been raised about the religious ceremonies relating to Emperor Naruhito's enthronement from the perspective of the separation of religion and state. The government sidestepped sufficient discussion of this issue, and decided in a meeting lasting only about an hour to carry out proceedings based on precedent. In this respect, problems with the enthronement ceremonies remained.

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