Japan’s Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako yesterday waved and smiled from an open car in a parade marking Naruhito’s enthronement as more than 100,000 delighted well-wishers cheered, waved small flags and took photographs from packed sidewalks.
Security was extremely tight, with police setting up 40 checkpoints leading to the parade area. Selfie sticks, bottles and banners — and even shouting — were not allowed inside the restricted zone. Residents in high-rise apartment buildings along the road were advised not to look down from their windows or balconies.
Naruhito succeeded his father, Akihito, on May 1 following his abdication, and formally ascended the Chrysanthemum Throne in a palace ceremony last month.
He has pledged to follow his father’s example to fulfill his responsibilities as a state symbol, stick with pacifism and stay close to the people. Under Japan’s post-World War II constitution, the emperor has no political power and is limited to ceremonial roles.
The parade started from the Imperial Palace, with the Kimigayo national anthem played by a marching band.
Naruhito, wearing a tail coat decorated with medals and carrying a brimmed hat, and Masako, in an off-white long dress and a tiara, waved from a Toyota Century convertible.
The car was decorated with the Chrysanthemum emblems and the emperor’s flag during the half-hour motorcade on the 4.6km route from the palace to the Akasaka imperial residence in the soft afternoon sun.
Naruhito, sitting on the right side on the slightly raised back seat, constantly turned his head to the right and left, responding to the people cheering from the opposite side of the street as the motorcade slowly moved at a jogger’s speed, led by a fleet of police motorbikes.
The parade was postponed from its original date last month due to a typhoon that left more than 90 people dead and tens of thousands of homes flooded or damaged.
An estimated 119,000 people came to watch the parade, local media reported.
The parade wrapped up Naruhito’s official succession events, though he would perform a highly religious imperial rite this week.
Some experts said the Japanese government’s funding of the Shinto harvest ritual could violate constitutional separation of state and religion.
Thousands of people had lined up at checkpoints hours before the parade, trying to secure their place to get the best possible view of the royal couple.
Takahiro Suzuki, a 75-year-old retiree who traveled from Chigasaki, west of Tokyo, arrived two hours ahead of the parade, but said it was worth it.
“The sky is so blue and this is a great day for taking photos, as if it’s the heaven’s blessing for [the emperor],” said Suzuki, an amateur photographer.
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