Naruhito’s Enthronement: Hasn’t Japan Done This Already?
TOKYO — Six months ago, Naruhito, the new emperor of Japan, received a sword, a jewel and official seals in a sacred ceremony that heralded his succession to the throne after his father, Akihito, became the first emperor to abdicate in more than 200 years.
It turns out that was only a prelude.
On Tuesday, Naruhito, 59, took part in another enthronement ceremony — one in which he formally declared his ascension to the world’s oldest monarchy — and this time he actually got to sit on a really big throne.
Also this time: The empress, Masako, Naruhito’s wife of 26 years, was in the room. In May, Masako, 55, was not allowed to attend the ascension ceremony, in part because Imperial Household law prohibits women from succeeding to the throne.
Why the long gap between ceremonies? A new emperor usually takes the throne after his predecessor dies. A short ceremony is quickly arranged, and a bigger event — the one held Tuesday — follows some time later. (When Naruhito’s father, Akihito, took the throne, he waited a full year after the death of his father, Hirohito, the wartime emperor.)
The second ceremony is designed in part to proclaim the new emperor before the rest of the world. Watching from nearby observation rooms in the Imperial Palace on Tuesday were dignitaries from 183 countries, including Prince Charles of Britain; King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima of the Netherlands; Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the civilian leader of Myanmar; President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines (who cut his trip short due to back pain); Carrie Lam, the chief executive of Hong Kong; and Elaine Chao, the United States transportation secretary. (At the enthronement of Naruhito’s father, Vice President Dan Quayle represented the United States.)
Despite the considerable pomp and a series of banquets that were to continue through the evening, the government decided to postpone a celebratory parade through the streets of Tokyo in deference to the victims of Typhoon Hagibis, which killed at least 80 people this month.
The parade is now scheduled for Nov. 10. Four days later, yet another ceremony will be held, a mysterious affair in which the emperor may or may not have conjugal relations with a goddess.
Game of Thrones
The most visible royal paraphernalia in Tuesday’s ceremony were the two thrones for the emperor and empress, made more than 100 years ago.
The thrones — known as the takamikura for the emperor, and the michodai for the empress — are usually stored at the Kyoto Imperial Palace, where the royal family ruled until the mid-19th century.
Each throne is made of thousands of small wood parts. In preparation for Tuesday’s ceremony, the thrones were disassembled more than a year ago and shipped in trucks to the Imperial Palace in Tokyo. Craftsmen reconstructed them and touched up their lacquer coating. Survival of the Throne: A five-part look at Japan’s royal family.
For the ceremony, the thrones sat in a stateroom on canopied podiums more than four feet off the wooden floor.
Including the podium height, Naruhito’s throne, which had vermilion handrails, was about 21 feet high. The throne for Masako (who is taller than her husband) was nearly 19 feet high.
When the imperial couple first entered the stateroom — the emperor went first — they were seated on the podiums, hidden from view behind curtains made of purple silk with scarlet lining.
The few other people in the room were members of the imperial family, court chamberlains, ladies-in-waiting, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, leaders of the two houses of Parliament and the chief justice of the Supreme Court. Everybody else — including reporters — watched from other rooms.