On Thursday night, Emperor Naruhito took part in the final accession ritual after ascending the throne on 1 May, the day after his father, Emperor Akihito (the now Emperor Emeritus) abdicated.
The Emperor took part in a ritual feast with the sun goddess, Shinto deity Amaterasu, in the Imperial Palace’s Daijokyu Halls; the ritual is called the “Daijosai” or “rite of great feasting.” The Japanese Imperial Family believes the sun goddess is one of its divine ancestors. The mystic ritual costs 2.7 billion-yen (or around 1.9 billion GBP).
In private, the Emperor offered the goddess rice in two wooden built halls; these halls will be destroyed now that the ritual is over. There were around 700 people at the ceremony including Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Only “two maidens” accompanied the Emperor into the wooden halls for the six-hour ceremony.
Earlier in the day, a ceremony took place at the Imperial Palace where Daijokyu Halls were blessed. Although, preparations for this ritual began months ago with the baking of a tortoise shell until it fractured. It was then used to determine where rice should be planted for the ceremony, which turned out to be the Kyoto and Tochigi prefectures.
The ritual has been criticised for violating the separation of church and state. However, the Imperial Household Agency argues it is essential to the enthronement process.
Japanologist John Breen explained about the ceremony, “The Daijosai transforms the Emperor from just an ordinary human to a sovereign whose authority extends over both this realm and the other realm,” Breen said. “The Daijosai happens just once in a reign — it’s a major event. Because it involves the Emperor with the sun goddess in the most intimate fashion, it transforms him.”