LAHORE: (Web Desk) Draped in ornate golden-brown robes and wearing a towering black hat, Japan's Emperor Akihito on Tuesday kicked off ceremonies for his abdication, the first in 200 years for the world's oldest monarchy.
Akihito is handing over the Chrysanthemum Throne to his eldest son, 59-year-old Crown Prince Naruhito, in a series of solemn rituals that also usher in the new imperial era named “Reiwa” — meaning beautiful harmony — that will last throughout the new monarch's reign.
As crowds began to gather early Tuesday in drizzle outside the sumptuous Imperial Palace in central Tokyo, Akihito performed a ritual to “report” his abdication to his ancestors and the Shinto gods at several “sanctuaries”.
But the main event will be at 5:00 pm local time (0800 GMT), when the 85-year-old Akihito will formally step down in a 10-minute ceremony in the “Matsu-no-Ma” ( “Room of Pine “), considered the Imperial Palace's most elegant hall.
The ritual will be conducted in the presence of the imperial regalia — an ancient sword and jewel — considered crucial evidence of an emperor's legitimacy.
However, Akihito nominally remains emperor until the stroke of midnight and Naruhito “inherits” the regalia at a second ceremony on Wednesday at 10:30am, making his first official public remarks shortly afterwards.
The Wednesday's ceremony is expected to be attended by just one woman — the sole female member of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's cabinet. Female royals are prohibited from participating.
The ceremonies are not public but hardy bands of wellwishers congregated outside the palace on Tuesday morning, despite near-constant rain.
“I'd like to thank the emperor for his hard work,” said 76-year-old Hironari Uemara, visiting Tokyo from Okayama in western Japan. His wife said she would miss Akihito and the outgoing imperial Heisei era.