National

Japan enthronement-related bill rises 30% from last ceremony despite government cost-cutting

Kyodo

Events marking Emperor Naruhito’s enthronement are expected to cost ¥16.3 billion, up 30 percent from Emperor Emeritus Akihito’s accession, due mainly to an increase in the number of guests.

With dignitaries from more than 180 nations and international organizations attending the main ceremony celebrating Tuesday’s enthronement — up from the 160 at the previous rite in November 1990 — the accommodation bill will be ¥4.1 billion more, according to the government.

An increase in labor and material costs also pushed up the total.

Emperor Naruhito ascended to the throne on May 1, following the abdication of his father — Akihito, the first Japanese monarch to step down in about 200 years — on April 30.

The government has struggled to balance containing costs while maintaining the gravitas of the occasion, after Emperor Naruhito and Emperor Emeritus Akihito hoped that related events would be staged with a modest budget, according to government officials.

“Amid the economic stagnation, the rituals must be something that can gain understanding of the people and be celebrated by them,” a senior Imperial Household Agency official said. The last ceremony was held at the peak of Japan’s asset-inflated bubble economy.

However, the official added, “We avoided excessive cost-cutting to maintain the quality of the events.”

One cost-reduction measure saw the government decide against following the precedent of erecting a stage in the courtyard of the Imperial Palace for the enthronement ceremony, saving some ¥300 million.

It also trimmed ¥80 million from the budget for banquets to be held for ceremony attendees — compared with 1990 — by reducing the number of invites and events.

About 2,600 guests in total have been invited to four banquets. The first is scheduled for Tuesday evening after the enthronement ceremony, with 450 people invited, including foreign leaders. The rest will be held on Friday, Oct. 29 and Oct. 31.

For the previous accession, a total of 3,400 guests were invited to seven banquets held for four days straight from Nov. 12, 1990. On three of those four days, two banquets were held. Among the guests were Britain’s Prince Charles and the late Princess Diana.

For the Daijosai thanksgiving ceremony scheduled for Nov. 14 and 15, a key imperial succession rite to be performed by the new emperor, the government has reduced the size of the venue hall to be built within the Imperial Palace’s East Garden.

Costs to restore the area to its original state have been slashed by about ¥300 million from the initial estimate.

Security expenses, including police vehicles and equipment, have been cut ¥1.5 billion from the previous accession to ¥3.8 billion, as equipment purchased for hosting the Group of Seven summit in Mie Prefecture in 2016 is being utilized.

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