The House of Representatives on Tuesday issued a congratulatory message to Emperor Akihito on his 30-year reign, ahead of his abdication at the end of April, in the first such message dedicated to a particular Imperial anniversary.
“We, the Japanese people, respectfully acknowledge His Majesty the Emperor’s achievements over the past 30 years under his era of Heisei, during which he has always stood by the people and prayed for their peace,” read the message adopted in the Lower House plenary session.
Among political parties, the Japanese Communist Party, which has traditionally maintained a distance from the Imperial system, boycotted the Diet session, saying the party does not agree with the “unprecedented” message that “excessively praises” the Emperor in light of the principle of popular sovereignty.
The Heisei Era started with the Emperor’s enthronement in 1989 and will end when the 85-year-old steps down on April 30 as the first Japanese monarch to do so in about 200 years. His eldest son, Crown Prince Naruhito, 59, will take over the Chrysanthemum Throne on May 1.
On Sunday, a government-sponsored ceremony held in Tokyo to mark the 30th anniversary was attended by around 1,100 people, including government officials and foreign ambassadors.
It was the first time the Lower House had adopted a congratulatory message since December 2001, when Princess Aiko, the granddaughter of the Emperor and Empress Michiko, was born.
Parliamentary messages were also crafted in 1990 for the current Emperor’s Enthrone Ceremony and in 1993 for the Crown Prince’s wedding event with Princess Masako.
The House of Councilors is also expected to release a separate message.
In a related move, the government said last week it would announce recipients of spring decorations conferred by the Emperor on May 21 — about a month later than usual — so that the announcement will come after Crown Prince Naruhito ascends the throne.
The Cabinet of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe approved the postponement from April 29, deeming it preferable to go through a set of procedures under the new Emperor.
It will be the first time for announcement of the recipients, who are recommended by the Cabinet and approved by the Emperor, to be delayed since the current honors system was introduced in 1964.
The government said it will be a one-off exceptional measure and that the announcement schedule for decorations given in the fall will remain unchanged.
Recipients of the decorations are usually announced on April 29 and Nov. 3 every year and award ceremonies are held shortly afterward. About 4,000 individuals with distinguished accomplishments in various areas are selected each time.
Some of the decorations are handed to recipients by the Emperor in conferment ceremonies. All recipients gain an audience with the Emperor.