October 16, 2019 / 2:17 AM / a month ago

Hundreds of dignitaries to attend as Japan's emperor declares enthronement

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japanese Emperor Naruhito is set to proclaim his enthronement next week in a centuries-old ceremony attended by some 2,000 people, including heads of state and other dignitaries from more than 170 countries.

FILE PHOTO - Japan's Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako greet well-wishers during their first public appearance at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo, Japan May 4, 2019. REUTERS/Issei Kato

Emperor Naruhito, 59, acceded to the throne in May after his father, Akihito, became the first monarch to abdicate in two centuries.

Following are the main events planned for Oct. 22, a one-off national holiday.

ENTHRONEMENT CEREMONY

Emperor Naruhito, like his father nearly three decades ago, will wear a traditional robe and headdress to the ceremony that will start at 1:00 p.m. (0400 GMT) at the Imperial Palace’s Matsu no ma, or Hall of Pine, the most prestigious space in the palace.

He will declare his enthronement from the “Takamikura” - a 6.5-metre-high (21-foot) pavilion that weighs about 8 tonnes - with a sword and a jewel, two of the so-called Three Sacred Treasures, placed beside him.

Together with a mirror called Yata-no-Kagami, kept at the Ise Grand Shrine, the holiest site in Japan’s Shinto religion, the ancient sword and jewel comprise the regalia that symbolizes the legitimacy of the emperor.

Emperor Akihito pledged during the previous ceremony in 1990 to observe Japan’s pacifist constitution and fulfill his duty as a symbol of the state and of the unity of the people.

Emperor Naruhito’s proclamation will be followed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s congratulatory address. Abe will then lead three cheers for the new emperor, bringing the 30-minute ceremony to a close.

About 16.1 billion yen ($148 million) has been earmarked for succession-related ceremonies throughout the year, including the enthronement.

DIPLOMACY

Guests include Britain’s Prince Charles, who along with Princess Diana attended Akihito’s enthronement ceremony, U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, Chinese Vice President Wang Qishan and South Korean Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon.

Also attending are Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and Myanmar leader, Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.

Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan will also likely attend, according to domestic media reports, but their names were not on a list issued by the government on Friday.

BANQUETS

A court banquet will begin at 7:20 p.m., attended by foreign dignitaries and representatives of Japan’s executive, legislative and judicial branches, and their spouses.

Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako, his Harvard-educated, ex-diplomat wife, will host a tea party for foreign royalty the following afternoon.

Abe will then host a banquet for about 900 foreign leaders and other delegation members at Tokyo’s Hotel New Otani in the evening.

PARDONS

To mark the enthronement, the government plans to grant pardons to about 550,000 people who committed petty crimes, such as traffic violations, and were fined.

Those pardoned will have restrictions on their legal rights lifted. In Japan, those who are convicted and fined are banned from obtaining licences to become physicians or nurses for five years.

Slideshow (4 Images)

PROCESSION

The government has postponed a procession due after the enthronement ceremony as the country grapples with the aftermath of Typhoon Hagibis, which hit over the weekend, causing the deaths of least 78.

Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako are now scheduled to ride in an open-top Toyota Century limousine through central Tokyo from 3:00 p.m. on Nov. 10.

Some 120,000 people, many waving national flags, lined the route to cheer Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko as they passed by in a Rolls-Royce Corniche III after his enthronement.

Reporting by Kiyoshi Takenaka; Editing by Karishma Singh

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