The government is leaning toward holding rituals in April as planned to formally announce Crown Prince Akishino’s status as first in line to the throne, with steps taken to prevent the spread of the coronavirus at the events, according to officials.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference Monday that “we will steadily make necessary preparations” for holding the ceremonies and that “all possible measures” will be taken to prevent exposure to the virus.
The 54-year-old prince became first in line after his elder brother, Emperor Naruhito, ascended the Chrysanthemum Throne last May 1, following the abdication of Emperor Emeritus Akihito the previous day, the first by a Japanese monarch in over 200 years.
The series of rituals called Rikkoshi no Rei is expected to largely follow the style used in 1991 when Emperor Naruhito was proclaimed crown prince.
At its core are two ceremonies currently scheduled for April 19 — the Rikkoshi Senmei no Gi to proclaim Prince Akishino as the new crown prince and Choken no Gi for his first meeting with the emperor and empress following the proclamation.
The government has been studying ways to scale down two court banquets slated for April 21, a senior official said last month.
The government earlier planned to invite a total of around 750 guests, including Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and ambassadors to Japan to the banquets.
It was already decided that the number of banquets would be reduced to two, held in a single day, even before concerns over the coronavirus outbreak spiked, to cut costs and reduce the burden on participating imperial family members. In 1991, three banquets were held over two days.
Abe requested last week that big sports and cultural events be canceled or postponed for 10 more days after making his initial request late last month to curb domestic infections.
The number of infections reported in Japan has topped 1,500, including about 700 cases from the Diamond Princess cruise ship that was quarantined in Yokohama.
The formal proclamation of Crown Prince Akishino as first in line to the throne will be the last of the ceremonies held for the imperial succession.