The Imperial Household Agency is arranging to transport by land the huge Takamikura throne to Tokyo from Kyoto around August, ahead of next year’s ceremony to mark Crown Prince Naruhito’s accession to the Chrysanthemum Throne, senior agency officials said Friday.
The 8-ton, 6.5-meter-high canopied throne is expected to be transported by a private company and undergo repairs at the Imperial Palace for the Oct. 22 state ritual next year, when the Crown Prince ascends to the structure’s elevated dais to proclaim his enthronement and receive the felicitations of representatives from home and abroad.
The ceremony will be the key event among a number of enthronement rites to be held in 2019 for the Crown Prince, 58, who will succeed to the throne the day after Emperor Akihito abdicates on April 30.
The abdication was arranged after the 84-year-old Emperor expressed his wish to step down due to his advanced age and weakening health. He will be the first emperor to relinquish the throne in more than 200 years.
The throne’s design is said to represent the mythological descent to Earth of Ninigi, grandson of the sun goddess Amaterasu, to rule over the Japanese archipelago.
Crown Prince Naruhito will be the 126th emperor in the world’s oldest hereditary monarchy, believed to stretch back more than 2,600 years, including legendary figures whose existence is disputed.
Past emperors have ascended to the Takamikura throne during their enthronement rites, with use of the throne believed to have begun in the eighth century.
The current structure has been used since the 1915 enthronement ceremony of Emperor Yoshihito (1879-1926), posthumously known as Emperor Taisho. It is housed at the Shishinden hall at the Kyoto Imperial Palace.
For the previous enthronement ceremony of Emperor Akihito, in November 1990, the throne was airlifted from Kyoto by a Ground-Self Defense Force helicopter in a secret operation following a bomb threat from a radical group.
The use of the Takamikura throne stirred religious controversy at that time as it was viewed as a symbol of the emperor who had been considered divine under Shinto, the country’s indigenous religion in which the emperor is venerated as a descendant of the sun goddess.
Critics said the use of the throne for a state occasion would violate the postwar Constitution, which prohibits the state from engaging in religious activities.
But a senior agency official said “social conditions have changed,” making it possible to transport the throne by land this time.
The government is set to spend about ¥500 million from the state’s budget through March 2019 for transportation and repair of the throne.
The agency may start disassembling the throne, possibly as early as June, to load the parts on several trucks for transport.
Some damage to the throne’s lacquer finish and degradation of its gold work have been found, and repairs will be carried out over a six-month period at the Imperial Palace.
Once the repair work is finished, the various parts of the throne will be moved to the Matsu no Ma state room, where the ceremony will be held. The agency plans to begin reassembling the structure around September next year.
The Michodai throne currently kept at the Kyoto palace and which will be used by Crown Princess Masako in the ceremony is also expected to be moved to Tokyo and repaired in a similar manner, the officials said.