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Japanese Emperor and Empress attend Shinto Rites

Their Imperial Majesties, the Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko spent last weekend in Kashihara, in the Nara Prefecture in Japan to take part in the official ceremonies to commemorate the 2600th anniversary of the death of Emperor Jimmu. The ceremonies are a part of the annual Shinto rites that both the Emperor and the rest of the Imperial family are obliged to perform to honour and worship their ancestors.

Back in Tokyo a ritual was also performed by Crown Prince Naruhito and Crown Princess Masako along with Princess Mako, Princess Kako and other members of the Imperial family at the Imperial Palace. It was the first time in several years that Crown Princess Masako had taken part in the ceremony. She has suffered from a adjustment disorder, reportedly caused by the pressures put on her to produce a male heir. She has remained largely out of the public eye since 2002 and only appears on certain occasions.

Emperor Jimmu’s life is largely shrouded in myth, but he is credited with being Japan’s first emperor. He is said to have to the throne where the Kashihara Shrine (or Jingu) is built, honouring him. His tomb is only a short distance from this shrine and both were visited by the Emperor and Empress this weekend. Emperor Jimmu accession is traditionally dates as 660 BCE. According to the mythology he was a descendants of the sun goddess Amaterasu, through her grandson Ninigi, and a descendants of the storm god Susanoo. His accession is marked as National Foundation Day on February 11. After the Second World War National Foundation Day was criticized as being too closely associated with the “emperor system” and was subsequently suspended from 1948 to 1966.

According to the legend Emperor Jimmu died when he was 126 years old.  The Emperor’s posthumous name literally means “divine might” or “god-warrior”.

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