Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako left Tokyo on Thursday for the Grand Shrines of Ise for a ceremony marking the completion of two major rites signifying the emperor’s enthronement.
After ascending to the Chrysanthemum Throne on May 1 following his father’s abdication, the 59-year-old emperor proclaimed his enthronement before international guests in the Sokuirei Seiden no Gi ceremony in October. Earlier this month, he performed the Daijosai rite, offering new harvests to the gods.
The emperor and empress are making the journey with a sacred sword and jewel, part of the imperial regalia — which also includes an ancient mirror — that he inherited upon his succession.
In the city of Ise, Mie Prefecture, the two will offer prayers at Geku, the outer shrine dedicated to Toyouke no Omikami — the goddess of food, clothing, and housing — on Friday morning. On the following day they will visit Naiku, the inner shrine dedicated to the Shinto sun goddess Amaterasu Omikami, the mythical ancestress of the imperial family.
The couple will return to Tokyo later on Saturday.
On Thursday, the site where the emperor performed the Daijosai ritual inside the Imperial Palace was opened to the public, allowing visitors to observe the exteriors of Daijokyu, a cluster of some 30 buildings built in the East Gardens for the rite.
The buildings on palace grounds in central Tokyo will be taken down after the 18-day public display period ends on Dec. 8.
Some 1,400 people lined up before the entrance gates opened in the morning, with many taking photos of the Suki and Yuki halls as well as other buildings in the complex.
“This is probably a once-in-a-lifetime occasion,” said Masanobu Ogisu, a 62-year-old Tokyo resident who was among the visitors.