Japanese government sets up secretariat to prepare for Imperial succession

Kyodo

The government established a secretariat Wednesday as it gears up for a string of rituals associated with the Emperor’s abdication scheduled for April 2019.

The secretariat will be responsible for overseeing the preparation and implementation of a number of events, including Emperor Akihito’s abdication ceremony on April 30 and other rites marking the accession of his son Crown Prince Naruhito to the Chrysanthemum Throne the following day.

“I hope we’ll have ceremonies that can be celebrated by people from all over the world,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told the officials in the secretariat, instructing them to be well-prepared for the “historic national event.”

The 26-member secretariat will be headed by Shigetaka Yamasaki, former director-general of the Cabinet Affairs Office, who has extensive knowledge of the Imperial system, officials said.

In April, the government approved a basic plan on how to stage the Imperial succession rites. According to the plan, a ceremonial committee chaired by the prime minister and ceremonial headquarters led by the chief Cabinet secretary will be established this fall.

The secretariat will also help set up the committee that will be in charge of crafting ceremonial outlines for a smooth succession and establish a headquarters that will be responsible for ensuring coordination among government ministries and agencies.

Some of the ceremonies will be held as state occasions, including Taiirei Seiden no Gi, in which the Emperor extends his last words to the chiefs of the three branches of the government on the day of his abdication, and Sokuirei Seiden no Gi, a highlight event for the new Emperor on Oct. 22, 2019.

The Foreign Ministry also set up a secretariat the same day to prepare for the acceptance of foreign dignitaries attending the Oct. 22 ceremony.

Emperor Akihito, 84, has expressed his wish to retire, citing concerns about his age and health.