02 May, 2019
Japanese Emperor Naruhito said Wednesday he was "filled with a sense of solemnity" in assuming the responsibility of the nation's head monarch and vowed to follow his father's lead and act in accordance to the constitution.
At midnight Tuesday - 8.30 pm IST - Japan's 59-year-old Prince Naruhito officially succeeded his father Akihito as Emperor, the 126th incumbent of the Chrysanthemum Throne, the world's oldest surviving hereditary monarchy.
"I pray with all my heart for peace and happiness for all the people in Japan and around the world", Akihito said.
Japan's new emperor ascended to the Chrysanthemum Throne in a ritual ceremony on Wednesday that barred women participants, including the new emperor's wife and daughter.
During the special ritual in the palace's Matsu-no-Ma state room, an nearly exclusively male audience saw Naruhito, 59, take possession of royal regalia and seals, including a sacred sword, that offers ceremonial proof of his ascension.
"As the Japanese people embark upon a new era, we will renew the strong bonds of friendship between our two countries", he said in a statement.
Female royals were allowed to attend the second part of the ceremony, where the emperor gave his first audience after ascending the throne.
Naruhito was educated at Oxford University, while his wife, Masako, is a former diplomat with a degree from Harvard.
Crown Prince Naruhito's last big ceremony came in 1993, when he married Crown Princess Masako.
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The nation celebrated the imperial succession prompted by retirement rather than death.
The ceremony ended in about five minutes as the Emperor left the room with chamberlains who held the sacred sword and jewels.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in also sent salutations, urging Naruhito to remember "pain from the war" and contribute to peace like his father.
Akihito took the throne in 1989 and devoted his career to making amends for a war fought in his father's name while bringing the aloof monarchy closer to the people. Together, they reached out to the people, especially those who faced handicaps and discrimination, and natural disasters.
He also endeared himself to many Japanese people by interacting with those suffering from natural disasters and disease.
In an annual news conference marking his February 23 birthday, Naruhito said he was open to taking up a new role that "suits the times".
Empress Masako later told reporters that she had accepted Naruhito's proposal after he said: "You might have fears and worries about joining the imperial household".
She has struggled with palace life, including being subjected to enormous pressure to produce a male heir, and has suffered stress-induced "adjustment disorder" for much of their marriage.