Former Empress Michiko turns 85; celebrations shelved over typhoon

Kyodo, JIJI

Empress Emerita Michiko marked her 85th birthday Sunday, her first since the abdication of her husband, Emperor Emeritus Akihito, earlier this year.

Birthday celebrations were canceled following a deadly typhoon last weekend, according to the Imperial Household Agency. She had planned on receiving family members at her and the former emperor’s residence.

The former empress underwent cataract surgery on both eyes in June and was earlier diagnosed with heart valve abnormalities, with the condition continuing to be monitored.

She also underwent surgery for breast cancer in September at the University of Tokyo Hospital after a lump was found in her left breast in July.

Despite her health issues, the former empress maintains her daily routine of taking a walk in the morning with her husband, and attends a concert or other artistic event every month.

The former emperor became the first Japanese monarch to abdicate in about two centuries, bringing to an end the 30-year Heisei Era. His elder son, Emperor Naruhito, ascended to the chrysanthemum throne May 1.

Preparations are proceeding steadily for rituals to mark Emperor Naruhito’s accession to the throne, including the main enthronement proclamation ceremony set for Tuesday.

On Saturday, the Imperial Household Agency allowed journalists to see the current state of the Imperial Palace, where the Sokui no Rei accession ceremony will take place with the attendance of about 2,000 guests including representatives from more than 190 countries.

In addition to the prime minister, Supreme Court justices and members of the Diet, there will be multitudes of foreign dignitaries in attendance on the day. Prince Charles will be attending from the U.K., while Chinese Vice President Wang Qishan will represent his country. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao will attend on behalf of the United States.

Also on Saturday, senior officials including from the agency, the Cabinet Secretariat and the Cabinet Office participated in a general rehearsal for the enthronement proclamation ceremony held in the palace.

Arrangements for the main ceremony have been finished, despite a delay in inner garden work in the aftermath of Typhoon Hagibis, which ravaged central to eastern areas of the country last weekend, according to agency officials.

The ceremony is scheduled to start at 1 p.m. Tuesday. The 126th emperor will ascend to the throne and declare his enthronement. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will then lead other guests in three banzai cheers.

A total of about 2,000 participants will attend court banquets on Tuesday and Friday night.

On Nov. 10, the emperor and empress will participate in a parade, riding in a convertible sedan on a 4.6-kilometer route from the Imperial Palace. This procession has been rescheduled from Tuesday due to the typhoon.

From late Nov. 14 through early Nov. 15, the emperor will perform the Daijosai great thanksgiving ceremony at the palace’s East Gardens.

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