TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako left Tokyo on Thursday for Ise Jingu, a Shinto shrine in central Japan, for a ceremony marking the completion of two major rites signifying the emperor's enthronement.
After ascending to the Chrysanthemum Throne on May 1 following his father's abdication, the 59-year-old emperor proclaimed his enthronement before international guests in the "Sokuirei Seiden no gi" ceremony in October and performed earlier this month the "Daijosai" Great Thanksgiving rite, offering new harvests to gods.
The emperor and empress are making the journey with the sword and jewels among the three imperial regalia, which also include the mirror. The emperor inherited them upon succession.
At Ise Jingu, the two will offer prayers at the Geku outer shrine dedicated to Toyouke no Omikami, the goddess of food, clothing, and housing, on Friday morning and the Naiku inner shrine dedicated to the Shinto sun goddess Amaterasu, the mythical ancestress of the imperial family, on Saturday morning.
The couple will return to Tokyo later Saturday.
On Thursday, the site where the emperor performed the Daijosai inside the Imperial Palace was opened to the public, allowing visitors to observe the exteriors of Daijokyu, a cluster of some 30 buildings built in the East Gardens for the emperor's once-in-a-lifetime ritual.
The buildings in central Tokyo will be taken down after the 18-day public display period ends on Dec. 8.
Some 1,400 people lined up before the entrance gates opened in the morning, and many took photos of the Suki and Yuki halls as well as other buildings in the complex with their smartphones and cameras.
"This is probably a once-in-a-lifetime occasion," said Masanobu Ogisu, a 62-year-old Tokyo resident who was among the visitors.