By Kiyoshi Takenaka
TOKYO (Reuters) – Japanese Emperor Naruhito is set to proclaim his enthronement to the world next week in a centuries-old ceremony attended by some 2,500 people, including heads of state and other dignitaries from nearly 200 countries.
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.
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 (21 feet) high 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, which is kept at the Ise Grand Shrine, the holiest site in Japan’s Shinto religion, the ancient sword and jewel comprise the regalia that symbolises the legitimacy of the emperor.
Emperor Akihito pledged during the previous ceremony in 1990 to observe Japan’s pacifist constitution and fulfil 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 ceremony.
Abe has said representatives from more than 190 countries and international organisations will likely join the celebration.
Those include Britain’s Prince Charles, who along with Princess Diana also attended Akihito’s enthronement ceremony, U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, Chinese Vice President Wang Qishan and South Korean Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon.
Domestic media said Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the kingdom’s de facto ruler, and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan will also likely attend, and that Abe will hold talks with some 50 foreign leaders.
A court banquet will begin at 7:20 p.m. with foreign dignitaries as well as the representatives of the 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.
The Asahi Shimbun daily reported on Wednesday the government had told the ruling Liberal Democratic Party that it planned to grant pardons to about 550,000 people to mark Naruhito’s enthronement.
Another daily, the Mainichi, said this month the planned pardon is targeted at petty criminals, and they will have restrictions on their legal rights lifted. In Japan, those who are convicted and fined are banned from obtaining physicians’, nurses’ and some other licenses for five years.
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 and killed at least 77 people.
Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako were due to ride in an open-top Toyota Century limousine through central Tokyo.
Abe said a new date had not been picked but public broadcaster NHK reported it would be rescheduled to 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 Robert Birsel)