On the 30th of April 2019, Crown Prince Naruhito will become the next Emperor of Japan. In an event that has not been seen for two centuries the current Emperor, Akihito, will formally relinquish his position on the Japanese throne and will retreat from public life into what many consider to be a well-earned retirement.
If any were expecting His Imperial Majesty to be sent off with big bangs and whistles, then they are to be disappointed.
Details regarding the Emperor’s hand over of office to his son have for the most part been sparse, partially so as not to create too much of a stir amongst the usually conservative Japanese public, but also because of the unprecedented nature of the event. The Japanese constitution, in force since 1947, does not really describe a system whereby the Emperor can legally retire from office. It’s not strictly speaking unconstitutional, yet neither is such a thing provided for. This means Japanese lawmakers, the Imperial Household Agency, and legislators have had to, essentially, envision Emperor Akihito’s retirement from scratch.
As well as a date, it has now emerged that His Imperial Majesty has requested a relatively simple and private ceremony overseeing his abdication. The general public will not be invited to witness the ceremony, nor are any foreign dignitaries invited to attend either. The whole affair will be small, discrete, and held within the privacy of the Imperial Palace in Tokyo. While nothing will stop well-wishers from lining up outside on the day if they so wish, they will not themselves see the point where Emperor Akihito surrenders the Chrysanthemum Throne to the next generation. After his abdication, it’s expected that the former emperor will move his residence outside of Tokyo, possibly to Kyoto.
According to Mr Shinichiro Yamamoto, the Grand Steward of the Imperial Household Agency, His Imperial Majesty specifically requested this minimalist approach so as not to overshadow his son’s coronation ceremony, which would take place just a few months afterwards.
Those hoping to see a more grandiose Japanese ceremony surrounding the monarchy will doubtless find more satisfaction in that event. When Emperor Akihito himself was enthroned as Emperor of Japan following the death of his father, Emperor Showa, in 1990 it was a large ceremony attended by no less than 2000 people, including foreign heads of state. However, much like the abdication, details about the Crown Prince’s enthronement are highly sparse.