• Kyodo


Popular all-male idol group Arashi sang at a national festival Saturday to celebrate the enthronement of Emperor Naruhito, with the event attended by the imperial couple.

The festival was held at the Imperial Palace Plaza in central Tokyo during the afternoon, beginning with a procession of around 30 mikoshi portable shrines accompanied by musical performers and dancers.

A celebratory parade of traditional Japanese folk dance groups from around the country and music bands of the Metropolitan Police Department and the Tokyo Fire Department also took place around the same time.

The second half of the festival featuring performances by Arashi and other artists began at 5:10 p.m. and was for ticket holders and invited guests only. More than 470,000 members of the public had applied for about 10,000 tickets, according to the organizers, who consist of lawmakers and business leaders.

The five Arashi members performed a song written by playwright Yoshikazu Okada and composed by Yoko Kanno, who is best known for her work on many anime and video game soundtracks.

Nobuyuki Tsujii, a blind pianist whose exceptional talent propelled him to international acclaim, performed together with Arashi.

The emperor and Empress Masako made an appearance during the second part of the event, which included congratulatory speeches by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as well as notable figures such as kabuki actor Matsumoto Hakuo and actress Mana Ashida.

The emperor said he “deeply appreciates” the celebration of his enthronement.

He also mentioned recent disasters such as Typhoon Hagibis, saying major damage from them “has seriously hurt my heart.”

“I sincerely hope restoration work will progress, and that people affected by the disaster will return to a life in which they feel secure as soon as possible.”

In 2009, a festival to mark 20 years of former Emperor Akihito’s reign at the Imperial Palace Plaza featured a congratulatory speech by Tatsunori Hara, the manager of the Yomiuri Giants professional baseball team, and a performance by popular J-pop group Exile.

Emperor Naruhito ascended the throne on May 1 after his 85-year-old father, Emperor Akihito, abdicated the previous day — the country’s first monarch to step down in about two centuries.

The Sokuirei Seiden no Gi enthronement ceremony, the equivalent of a coronation, was held on Oct. 22 as a state occasion, with the emperor proclaiming his ascension to the Chrysanthemum Throne before about 2,000 guests, including some 420 dignitaries from about 190 countries and international organizations.

On Sunday, Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako will be driven in a convertible sedan along a 4.6-kilometer-long route from the Imperial Palace to their residence in the Akasaka Estate to mark the enthronement.

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