• Kyodo


In a move that will create a 10-day Golden Week holiday period in 2019, the government plans to designate May 1, when the new Emperor is planned to ascend the throne, as a one-off holiday, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Friday.

Abe also said that a ritual marking the promotion of Prince Akishino, the younger son of current Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko, to first in line to the throne will be held on April 19, 2020, about a year after his father becomes the first living Japanese monarch to step down in about 200 years.

“We will thoroughly prepare for (a series of rites) so that all the people can celebrate,” Abe told the first meeting of a government committee responsible for working out the details of ceremonies for the Imperial succession.

Japanese law stipulates that a working day sandwiched between national holidays automatically becomes a public holiday.

In 2019, April 29 and May 3 to 6 are already assigned as national and public holidays. If May 1 is designated as a national holiday, April 30 and May 2 will become public holidays, resulting in a rare 10-day vacation period beginning April 27, which falls on a Saturday.

The prime minister said the government is also considering setting Oct. 22 next year as a one-off national holiday, as an enthronement ceremony will be held that day for the new Emperor. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said during a news conference that the government will submit a bill, necessary to designate the holidays, to the Diet “as soon as possible”, possibly to an extraordinary session to be convened later this month. Emperor Akihito, 84, is set to step down on April 30, and the Emperor’s elder son, Crown Prince Naruhito, 58, is scheduled to accede to the throne the following day.

The Rikkoshi no Rei ritual for Prince Akishino, who is now 52 years old, will be held for the first time to notify the public that the prince has become koshi, the title created for the younger brother, rather than the son, of a new emperor who becomes first in line to the Chrysanthemum Throne.

The Imperial House Law stipulates only males can ascend the throne in the world’s oldest hereditary monarchy. Crown Prince Naruhito and Crown Princess Masako have a daughter, 16-year-old Princess Aiko.

The government committee, headed by Abe, will decide on the outlines of the Imperial succession rites, drawing on precedents following the 1989 death of Emperor Akihito’s father, Emperor Hirohito, who is known posthumously as Emperor Showa.

Other major state occasions will include Taiirei Seiden no Gi, in which the Emperor will extend 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 to be attended by guests from home and abroad.

The government will also sponsor a ceremony marking the 30th anniversary of the enthronement of Emperor Akihito on Feb. 24 next year.

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