20th Anniversary of Emperor Akihito’s Accession to the Throne

  November 13, 2009 at 1:45 pm by

Tens of thousands of well-wishers lined the streets of Tokyo on Thursday to mark the 20th anniversary of Emperor Akihito’s accession to the throne. On November 12, 1990 Emperor Akihito performed the Sokuirei (Ceremony of Enthronement), which marked the official beginning of his reign.

View the image at Zimbio

Parades, concerts and speeches by politicians, dignitaries, businessmen, leading athletes and actors marked the colourful festivities that lasted most of the day.

The celebrations started with the memorial ceremony at the National Theatre of Japan, where the Imperial Couple was greeted by the Government officials and dignitaries.

Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama then greeted the Emperor with three cheers of “Banzai!” – the traditional cheer when wishing someone long life.

The parade outside the Imperial Palace featured colourful floats and portable shrines in honour of Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko.

After darkness fell, a crowd gathered in front of the Imperial Palace waving national flags and carrying traditional lanterns. Over 50,000 people gathered for a concert, performed in a garden outside the palace, which featured traditional and modern music. The Imperial couple watched the celebrations from a bridge.

View the image at BBC

In a pre-anniversary news conference, the Emperor answered to the journalists’ question. His Majesty confirmed he was in good health, despite his recent treatments for cancer.

When asked if he had any concerns for the country’s future, he said he was worried young people are forgetting their history. In unusually sombre comments, the Emperor said that Japan must not forget its past and must learn from the war-marred era of his father, Emperor Hirohito.

“What worries me most is that the history of the past will gradually be forgotten… The reign of my father began at a very difficult time… There are many lessons we can derive from the years of his reign.”

Japan’s Chrysanthemum Throne, the world’s oldest monarchy, has undergone major changes since the country’s surrender in 1945, which ended World War II. Before the surrender, the Emperor was officially considered a living God and his status was divine.

Following the surrender, the role of Emperor was re-defined by U.S. military leaders and limited to purely ceremonial functions. Nevertheless, Emperor Akihito is hugely popular and is a symbol of the country’s unity.

Emperor Akihito succeeded to the Throne when Emperor Hirohito (Showa) passed away on January 7th, 1989, becoming Japan’s 125th Emperor. Following Hirohito’s death, the Imperial ancestors enshrined in Kyuchu Sanden were informed that a new Emperor was enthroned (as part of centuries-old tradition). Afterwards, the Ceremony of Inheritance of the Symbol of the Throne (Kenjito-shokei-no-gi) was held, which officially marked the start of Heisei era.

The Enthronement ceremonies were held in 1990, after the traditional period of mourning expired. Among those ceremonies, the most important ones are Sokuirei (Ceremony of Enthronement – held on November 12th) and Daijosai (Grand Thanksgiving Festival – held on November 23rd). During the Sokuirei ceremony, the new Emperor formally announces his succession to the Throne to the nation. The Daijosai is a traditionally rite carried out at the time of the enthronement since ancient times. Daijosai can only be performed once by newly-enthroned Emperor, however Shinjosai (Thanksgiving Festival), which shares most of the traditions with Daijosai, is performed annually; during Shinjosai, the Emperor makes an offering of newly harvested rice to the ancestral deities and prays for the peace and prosperity of the country.

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