Many Japanese celebrated the start of the Reiwa Era on Wednesday with their family, friends and loved ones — some with newborn babies — as Shinto shrines and popular spots across the country were crowded with visitors keen to take in the festive atmosphere.
Some 1,500 residents lined up to form a human representation of the two Chinese characters for Reiwa in Dazaifu, Fukuoka Prefecture, where a plum-blossom viewing that inspired the era name took place in the eighth century. It took more than an hour for them to form the characters, each of which measured 30 meters by 30 meters.
“I feel lucky to be part of the celebration,” said Hiroshi Nabeshima, 68, who traveled from the nearby city of Fukuoka to take part.
At the Grand Shrines of Ise, a Shinto shrine in Mie Prefecture, people started lining up from early morning to receive traditional Japanese sweets called rakugan that were given out in celebration of Emperor Naruhito’s enthronement.
The shrine, which prepared about 40,000 boxes of rakugan, is dedicated to the Shinto sun goddess Amaterasu, from whom the imperial family is said to be descended.
In Osaka’s Dotonbori district, mechanical drum-playing doll Kuidaore Taro, a famous landmark mascot, welcomed visitors with a speech bubble that read “I hope Reiwa will make good days” in English.
Katsuyoshi Goto, 48, on a family trip from Gifu Prefecture, was taking photos of the doll. “I agree (with the message) because Heisei saw various natural disasters,” Goto said.
Many couples welcomed a newborn on the first day of Reiwa. “I’m surprised that my baby was born on the first day of Reiwa, when the whole country is in a festive mood,” said Michiko Fumita, 33, of Toda, Saitama Prefecture, who gave birth to a 3,054-gram baby girl at 6:47 a.m. at a hospital in Toda. “Maybe she herself chose (the day),” Fumita mused.
To catch the first sunrise of the new era, some headed to scenic locations while others boarded a special flight from Haneda airport in Tokyo, although the weather was cloudy in many parts of the country.
In the coastal town of Kushimoto, in Wakayama Prefecture, hundreds of people flocked to Cape Shionomisaki, the southernmost point of Honshu. Hankyu Travel International Co. in Osaka chartered a West Japan Railway Co. express train for tourists to view the sunrise off the cape, but clouds obscured the view. “The weather is unfortunate, but I hope the new era will be a good period,” said 54-year-old Tokyo resident Masami Oshiyama, who was on the train tour.
Emperor Naruhito ascended the Chrysanthemum Throne on Wednesday, after his father, Emperor Emeritus Akihito, abdicated the previous day.