Language

The Ceremony of Accession offers a chance to use some high-ranking vocabulary

by Haruka Murayama

Staff Writer

On May 1, Japan moved from the 平成時代 (Heisei jidai, Heisei Era) into the 令和時代 (Reiwa jidai, Reiwa Era) as former Emperor Akihito retired from his position and passed the throne to his eldest son, Naruhito. The country celebrated with a few extra days off work, but the ceremonies aren’t over yet.

Today is the day of the 即位礼正殿の儀 (Sokuirei Seiden no Gi, the Ceremony of Accession) and it is an official 国民の休日 (kokumin no kyūjitsu, national holiday). In May, this column examined a variety of 皇室用語 (kōshitsu yōgo, imperial language) connected to the royal handover. Thanks to the 皇位継承 (kōi keishō, imperial succession) and other relevant ritual events taking place this year, however, Japanese learners have more than one chance to practice this new vocabulary.

Three main events were set to take place today: the aforementioned 即位礼正殿の儀, the 祝賀御列の儀 (shukuga onretsu no gi, celebratory procession) and the 饗宴の儀 (kyōen no gi, banquet ceremony). 台風19号の影響で、祝賀御列の儀は延期になりました (Taifū jūkyū-gō no eikyō de, shukuga onretsu no gi wa enki ni narimashita, Due to the effects of Typhoon No. 19 [Hagibis], the celebratory procession has become postponed), so only two events will take place.

As you can see, words representing imperial events consist of a range of kanji. The one character that the three events have in common is the “儀” (“gi”), which comes at the end. It’s meaning is similar to “式” (shiki, ceremony), which is used in everyday conversation with terms like 結婚式 (kekkon-shiki, wedding ceremony), 入学式 (nyūgaku-shiki, school entrance ceremony) or 成人式 (seijin-shiki, coming of age ceremony). However, 儀 is more likely to be used for ceremonies derived from imperial rituals.

Getting back to the 即位礼正殿の儀, 天皇陛下 (tennō heika, His Imperial Majesty) and some male attendees will wear elaborate 束帯 (sokutai, imperial attire) instead of the usual fancy suits. The emperor and empress are scheduled to arrive at 宮殿松の間 (Kyūden Matsu no Ma, the Pine Chamber of the Imperial Palace) at 1 p.m. where they will then take their seats on the 高御座 (takamikura, chrysanthemum throne) and 御帳台 (michōdai, the empress’ throne), respectively. The emperor’s throne actually consists of a curtained seat atop a dais that is reportedly around 6.5 meters high and weighs about 8 tonnes in total.

The emperor will give a speech and that will be followed by 首相からのお祝いの言葉 (shushō kara no o-iwai no kotoba, a congratulatory message from the prime minister). You may hear this expressed more succinctly and formally as just 祝辞 (shukuji, congratulatory address), but to be more specific, it is also referred to as 寿詞 (yogoto, congratulatory address to an emperor). Regardless of what you call it, the message will be followed by the traditional 万歳三唱 (banzai sanshō, three cheers) of: “万歳! 万歳! 万歳!”

The 祝賀御列の儀 was set to take place at 3:30 p.m. today, but it will take place on Nov. 10, instead. “御列” can be rendered in English as “procession” and is a little more formal than “行列” (gyōretsu, procession) or “パレード” (parēdo, parade). You would see the former word in a term like, 大名行列 (daimyō gyōretsu), a procession of feudal lords carried out in the 江戸時代 (Edo jidai, Edo Period) between 1603 and 1868, and you can see the latter on Oct. 27 when the 川崎ハロウィンパレード (Kawasaki Harowin parēdo, Kawasaki Halloween Parade) brings out ghouls and ghosts in Kawasaki.

The parade on Nov. 10 won’t involve ghouls nor feudal lords, it’s just a chance for the 国民 (kokumin, citizens) to wave hello to the new 天皇 (tennō, emperor) and 皇后 (kōgō, empress) as they drive in an open-top car from 皇居 (Kōkyo, the Imperial Palace) to 赤坂御所 (Akasaka Gosho, Akasaka Palace) where they currently live. Expect the roads to be closed and crowded with well-wishers.

The final royal event will be the 饗宴の儀, which is set to start at 7 p.m. On less formal occasions, 饗宴 (kyōen) is often replaced with 宴会 (enkai, banquet), 会食 (kaishoku, meet-up) or the simpler 飲み会 (nomikai, drinking party). The 饗宴 is expected to attract around 2,500 VIPs from around the world and take place on four different days. But hey, unlike a 飲み会, it probably won’t be capped off with a stellar round of カラオケ (karaoke).

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