Naruhito becomes Japan’s new emperor, hopes for country’s progress

Japan’s Emperor Akihito

85-year-old Japanese Emperor Akihito abdicated the throne after reigning for 30 years, stepping down Tuesday to let his son take his place.

Naruhito also said he feels solemn as thinks of the heavy weight of his responsibility.

Naruhito has promised to emulate his father in seeking peace and staying close to people.

Japan's new Emperor Naruhito vowed to fulfill his duty as a symbol of state and people as defined under Japan's Constitution in his first address Wednesday, a day after his father abdicated.

"I sincerely pray for the happiness of the people and the further development of the nation as well as the peace of the world", he added.

Naruhito, 59, also expressed gratitude towards his father Emperor Emeritus Akihito, his voice breaking when he talked about Akihito's service to his country. Together, they reached out to the people, especially those who faced disability, discrimination and natural disasters.

In the first stage of Naruhito's accession ceremony, imperial chamberlains will put the state and privy seals, along with cases containing two of Japan's "Three Sacred Treasures" - a sword and a jewel - on desks in front of him as proof of his rightful succession.

Prior to the ceremonies, Abe said in an informal gathering of Cabinet ministers held after an extraordinary Cabinet meeting, "I celebrate the enthronement of the emperor from my heart".

Naruhito's brother Prince Fumihito will be next in line to the throne, followed by the new emperor's nephew, 12-year-old Prince Hisahito. However, Japan's current law restricts females from inheriting the throne.

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The banning of female royals at the ceremony underscored the uncertain future of a paternalistic imperial family that now has just two heirs.

While the country isn't mourning a death, this imperial succession is still bittersweet, bidding adieu to the nostalgic memories of the previous era and optimistically looking forward to what's next.

The Yomiuri ShimbunThe Emperor succeeded to the throne on Wednesday, the first day of the Reiwa era, according to the special measures law on the Imperial House Law. The ward office was open despite a national holiday Wednesday.

Reiwa, a name unveiled by the Japanese government on April 1, is officially translated as "beautiful harmony".

Naruhito also received congratulations from overseas.

The change ushered in a new "era" in Japan.

"It will be interesting to see what happens with Japan's relationship with China and South Korea under the new emperor", said Yuji Otabe, professor emeritus of Japanese history at Shizuoka University of Welfare.

From a auto window on his way to and from the palace, Naruhito smiled and waved at the people cheering on the sidewalk.

The Oxford-educated Naruhito now faces the delicate balancing act of continuing his father's popular legacy while upholding the traditions of the Chrysanthemum Throne that stretch back centuries. After the ratification of Japan's post-WWII constitution, the position became largely symbolic and offers no political power.

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