National

Emperor's succession rite to follow precedent despite constitutional controversy

Kyodo

The government approved Thursday the outline of a ritual to be held this fall to proclaim the enthronement of Emperor Naruhito before international guests, following the style adopted by his father in 1990, despite a controversy surrounding the nature of the rite.

In the Sokuirei Seiden no Gi enthronement ceremony starting at 1 p.m. on Oct. 22, the emperor will give a speech from a 6.5-meter-high canopied throne, known as the takamikura, and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will deliver a yogoto congratulatory message and lead guests in three banzai cheers to wish for the emperor’s longevity.

The ritual, for which 2,500 people will be invited, has previously sparked controversy, with critics claiming the emperor’s proclamation from a height above the prime minister violates the constitutional principle that the sovereignty of the nation resides with its people.

Emperor Naruhito ascended to the throne May 1, following the abdication of his father, Emperor Emeritus Akihito, on April 30. He was the first Japanese monarch to do so in about 200 years.

Under the latest plan, the prime minister will lead the cheers on the floor of the Pine Chamber state room in the Imperial Palace, following the previous example of the enthronement of Emperor Akihito in 1990.

“We will endeavor to make sure every ceremonial function is conducted immaculately and without incident,” Abe said.

When the ritual was conducted in 1928 for Emperor Showa, the grandfather of the current monarch, Prime Minister Giichi Tanaka led the cheers in the yard of the Kyoto Imperial Palace.

Emperor Naruhito will wear a dark orange robe called “Korozen no goho,” the design of which dates back to the ninth century and is only worn by emperors during important ceremonies. Abe will be dressed in a tailcoat.

Following the 30-minute ritual, the emperor and Empress Masako will take part in a parade in the capital in a convertible luxury sedan for around 4.6 kilometers from 3:30 p.m. They will also participate in four banquets to be held on the same day and three other days.

The government is considering holding the parade around Oct. 26 if it rains on the planned date.

In relation to the previous imperial succession, a number of lawsuits contesting the constitutionality of the rites were filed across Japan.

While all of them were dismissed, a 1995 Osaka High Court ruling said doubts remained over whether the staging of the enthronement ceremony breached the postwar Constitution, which bans the state from engaging in religious activities.

The government also decided Thursday it will put the takamikura on public display for 20 days each at the Tokyo National Museum between December and January and at the Kyoto Imperial Palace in March. Entry will be free of charge.