The 59-year old Emperor Naruhito succeeded his father Emperor Akihito, who is the first Japanese emperor to stand down in more than 200 years. In his first public address, Japan’s Emperor Naruhito has pledged to fulfil his role as a “symbol of the state and unity”.
Naruhito is the 126th monarch of the Japanese monarchy. Technically, Naruhito became emperor at the stroke of midnight local time (1500GMT Tuesday). He was coronated with traditional customs held at the Imperial Palace and was given the key to Japan’s royal dignity.
In Japan, a new era has begun with the new Emperor. Naruhito’s tenure will be known as Reiwa era, which means ‘beautiful harmony’.
The Japanese monarchy does not have any political power but is regarded as the national symbol and pride. The Japanese have a great amount of respect for their Emperor. In fact, Japanese emperors used to be seen as gods but after defeat in World War Two, Naruhito’s grandfather, Hirohito publicly renounced his divinity.
Historian says that the Japanese monarchy is the oldest hereditary monarchy in the world and is considered 2600-year-old.
The Oxford-educated Naruhito became crown prince at the age of 28. His wife Masako Owada was a former diplomat. The new emperor and empresses met at a tea party and got married in 1993. Empresses Masako was educated at Harvard and Oxford. 18-year-old princess Aiko is the only child of Emperor Naruhito and Empresses Masako. Notably, Japanese law prohibits women from inheriting the throne.
The Japan government has declared a 10-day long public holiday on this eve. But despite the holiday exodus and steady driving rain on Tuesday night, crowds gathered at Tokyo’s famous Shibuya crossing at the clock struck at midnight to welcome the Reiwa era.
“The emperor was a good person … He was the symbol of Japan,” said Rika Yamamoto, a 24-year-old company employee sheltering under an umbrella on the crossing.
“I hope the new emperor will carry on the kindness the old emperor had.”
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