Japan earlier today witnessed a rare handover of its Chrysanthemum Throne by a living emperor.
New Emperor Naruhito ascended the throne on Wednesday. His father Akihito abdicated Tuesday night. Akihito, age 85, now takes the title emperor emeritus. That is a term of honor for an individual who is retired from a position of significance. It was Japan’s first abdication in two centuries.
The transition started Tuesday. Akihito, wearing a monarch’s dark orange robe and a headdress, reported his retirement at three main shrines. He later formally announced his retirement in his final address to his people, thanking them for their support.
Akihito took the throne in 1989. He devoted his career to making amends for World War II—a war fought in his father’s name which resulted in devastation for Japan. He also put great effort into drawing the monarchy closer to the people. His era was the first in Japan’s modern history without war.
The nation celebrated the imperial succession prompted by retirement rather than death. Many came to celebrate the beginning of Naruhito’s reign, which also comes with a new name for a new era: reiwa. (See A New Era in Japan: Reiwa.)
At the succession ceremony on Wednesday, Naruhito pledged to emulate his father in seeking peace and staying close to the people. He received the imperial regalia of a sacred sword and jewel as proof of his succession.
On his way to and from the palace, he lowered his car window, smiled and waved at people cheering on the sidewalk.
Naruhito is the first emperor born after World War II. He is also the first to have studied overseas.
(Japan’s Emperor Akihito, left, and his son Crown Prince Naruhito, second from right, arrive for the ceremony of abdication at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo, Tuesday, April 30, 2019. Japan Pool via AP)