Photos: Japan welcomes a new emperor and empress

Welcoming a new era.
Welcoming a new era.
Image: REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon
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Japan’s new emperor, Naruhito, formally ascended the Chrysanthemum Throne today. His 85-year-old father, Akihito, yesterday became the first leader in two centuries to step down, citing ill health. He is now Emperor Emeritus.

Akihito was a beloved figurehead, whose three-decade-long rule provided stability during events such as the 2011 tsunami, which killed thousands. He traveled extensively as a diplomat for Japan, and together with his wife broke tradition by interacting with the public.

Nahurito will have to balance the traditions of the throne while continuing to modernize it as his father did.

Flags celebrating Reiwa
Flags celebrating the new age, Reiwa, are hung around Tokyo.
Image: Reuters/Kim Kyung-Hoon

The ascension sees the start of a new era for the country called Reiwa, and has been marked by a 10-day long holiday. Japanese citizens flocked today to Tokyo, and popular sites such as the Meiji Shrine, where free sake was given out.

Japan's new Emperor Naruhito
Naruhito waves as he arrives at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo.
Image: Reuters/Kim Kyung-Hoon

The ascension ceremony saw Nahurito, 59, accept a range of lavish regalia, including a sacred sword, the state seal, and the imperial seal. The newly-anointed Empress Masako was absent from the ritual, which bars royal women from attending, although one female cabinet member was present. Masako later joined Nahurito as he addressed the nation.

Naruhito inheriting the regalia.
Naruhito inheriting the regalia.
Image: Imperial Household Agency of Japan/Handout via Reuters

Masako is a popular figure in Japan, despite having stepped away from the public spotlight after being diagnosed with a stress-related mental illness in 2004. She said in December she would step up her public duties. The couple have a daughter, Aiko, born in 2001. Masako reportedly faced immense pressure to have a son in order to continue the royal line.

Japan's new Empress Masako
Japan’s new Empress Masako waves from her vehicle.
Image: Reuters/Kim Kyung-Hoon

Some used the occasion to protest Japan’s imperial system.

Protesters participate in a rally against Japan's imperial system
Image: Reuters/Kim Kyung-Hoon

The event also gave fans of the royal family the opportunity to show off their collection of memorabilia. Below, Fumiko Shirataki displays her collection of royal photographs.

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Image: Reuters/Issei Kato