Japan’s Emperor Naruhito proclaimed his ascension to the Chrysanthemum Throne on Tuesday, appearing in a brownish-orange ceremonial robe in a ritual attended by representatives of more than 180 countries.
The elaborate, 30-minute ceremony formalizes the transition from Naruhito’s father, Akihito, who abdicated in April. The following month, Naruhito officially assumed the throne. He is the 126th emperor in a line of hereditary monarchs that is believed to go back 1,500 years in Japan.
The proclamation is meant mostly as a way to showcase the monarchy, to win public support and to preserve Japan’s cultural heritage, according to historians. It is celebrated as a national holiday.
In addition to the robe, Naruhito, 59, wore a traditional black headdress decorated with an upright tail. He read out a statement from the Takamikura throne, a raised dais enclosed by purple curtains. Naruhito’s wife, Empress Masako, ascended a separate, smaller throne.
“Having previously succeeded to the Imperial Throne in accordance with the Constitution of Japan and the Special Measures Law on the Imperial House Law, I now… proclaim my enthronement to those at home and abroad,” he said in a translation from The Japan Times.
“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, 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,” Naruhito said.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe congratulated the new emperor with three “banzai” cheers as a wish for long life.
To mark the proclamation, in accordance with tradition, Abe’s government also pardoned some 550,000 petty criminals. In 1989, upon the death of Emperor Hirohito, Naruhito’s grandfather, more than 10 million people received amnesties and pardons. The following year, when Akihito ascended, another 2.5 million pardons were handed out.
The imperial couple had been expected to appear in a parade following the ceremony, but it was postponed until next month due to Typhoon Hagibis, which killed dozens and caused widespread destruction in central Japan.
The list of royals and other dignitaries in attendance included Prince Charles, Netherlands’ King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima, Sweden’s King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia, Cambodian King Norodom Sihamoni, Brazilian President Jair Bolsanaro and former French President Nicolas Sarkozy. China’s Vice President Wang Qishan attended, as did U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao.
The emperor and empress will also appear at a royal banquet Tuesday evening.
A third ceremony associated with the accession, set for next month, is the religious ritual of the Grand Harvest.
The AP says the ceremonies cost $150 million and the Japan Times notes that there has been public criticism that they violate the country’s post-war separation of state and religion.