A close aide to Emperor Hirohito, posthumously known as Emperor Showa, criticized the government for staging an “entirely incongruous” and costly ceremony in 1990 to proclaim the enthronement of Emperor Akihito, according to comments in his diary obtained by Kyodo News.
The late chamberlain Shinobu Kobayashi also wrote about his “fears” that the enthronement ceremony, “held for the first time under the new Constitution, might be used as a precedent for holding the ceremony in the future.”
The discovery of criticism by an Imperial household insider comes as the government prepares to perform a series of Imperial succession rites related to Emperor Akihito’s abdication and his son’s enthronement in 2019.
Despite Kobayashi’s misgivings, the basic plan approved by the government in April stipulates that the events should follow the example set by Emperor Akihito’s enthronement ceremony after Emperor Hirohito died in January 1989.
Kobayashi, who died in 2006, cast particular doubt on the Sokuirei Seiden no Gi, a high-profile ritual for proclaiming the enthronement of incoming emperors.
The chamberlain, who worked for the Imperial household following Emperor Hirohito’s death, was cynical of the mixed styles of dress worn by participants in the ceremony, which was held on Nov. 12, 1990.
The new Emperor and Empress, other members of the Imperial household and officials from the Imperial Household Agency were clad in traditional garments from the 10th century, while the heads of the three branches of government, including then-Prime Minister Toshiki Kaifu, were wearing Western-style tailcoats, Kobayashi noted.
He called it “an old-fashioned ceremony conducted in a stage setting that was entirely incongruous,” adding that if everyone had worn the same Western-style clothing as the government officials, “it would not have cost billions of yen.”
He also wrote about his displeasure with top officials in the Cabinet Legislation Bureau who gave “detailed instructions” on how to stage the ceremony, including where to place the state and privy seals, in an attempt to weaken the religious nature of the event amid controversy over the separation of religion and state stipulated in the Constitution.
The Cabinet Legislation Bureau officials insisted the seals were nonreligious items and instructed that they be displayed prominently during the ceremony, according to Kobayashi’s diary.
“They believe that if the state and privy seals had been placed in an obscure place, the purpose to weaken the religious nature would not have been fulfilled,” he wrote, adding, “how timid they are.”
The same ceremony will be held on Oct. 22, 2019, months after the 84-year-old monarch abdicates on April 30 and his son, Crown Prince Naruhito, ascends the Chrysanthemum Throne the following day.
Emperor Akihito took over the throne after his father died on Jan. 7, 1989, at age 87.
The postwar Constitution bans the state from engaging in religious activities. In fact, a series of lawsuits contesting the constitutionality of the rituals related to Emperor Akihito’s enthronement were filed across Japan, only to be dismissed.
But a 1995 ruling by the Osaka High Court pointed out that the government might have violated the Constitution by financing the rituals.