Japan witnesses rare imperial abdication

Japanese new Emperor Naruhito delivers the first speech after the accession during his first audience ceremony, Sokui-go-Choken-no-Gi, at Imperial Palace in Tokyo on May 1, 2019. Also the Heads of the Legislative houses, Executive, and Judiciary and other Representatives of the people attended the ceremony. ---SEARCH "Japanese Emperor's enthronement YOMIURI" for this series--- ( The Yomiuri Shimbun via AP Images )

TOKYO (AP) — Japan has witnessed a rare handover of its Chrysanthemum Throne by a living emperor.

New Emperor Naruhito ascended the throne on Wednesday after his father Akihito abdicated Tuesday night and became emperor emeritus. It was Japan’s first abdication in two centuries.

Japan’s new Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako are celebrated by Crown Prince Akishino and Princess Kiko at Imperial Palace in Tokyo on May 1, 2019. Emperor succeeded to the throne on the same day. ( The Yomiuri Shimbun via AP Images )

The transition started Tuesday as Akihito, wearing a monarch’s dark orange robe and a headdress, reported his retirement at three main shrines, including one where the sun goddess Amaterasu, said to be the direct ancestress of the imperial family, is enshrined.

Japanese Empress Masako heads for Imperial Palace to attend a ceremony, Sokui-go-Choken-no-Gi, in Tokyo on May 1, 2019. New Emperor Naruhito succeeded to the throne on the same day. ( The Yomiuri Shimbun via AP Images )

Akihito, 85, later formally announced his retirement in his final address to his people, thanking them for their support.

Akihito took the throne in 1989 and devoted his career to making amends for a war fought in his father’s name while bringing the aloof monarchy closer to the people. His era was the first in Japan’s modern history without war.

Danjiri portable shrines march on a street to celebrate the opening of Japan’s new era Reiwa in Kobe, Hyogo Prefecture on May 1, 2019, the first day of Reiwa. New Emperor Naruhito succeeded to the throne on the same day. ( The Yomiuri Shimbun via AP Images )

The nation celebrated the imperial succession prompted by retirement rather than death. Many stood outside the palace to reminisce about Akihito’s era; others joined midnight events when the transition occurred, and more came to celebrate the beginning of Naruhito’s reign.

About 50 members of Manyono Kai, clad in ancient costumes parade around the remain of the Dazaifu Government in Dazaifu, Fukuoka Prefecture on May 1, 2019. A new era name ” Reiwa”, meaning peace harmony, was quoted from the poem of Manyoshu (600-759) during plum flower party. Dazaifu, was a local government office in Kyuishu region. ( The Yomiuri Shimbun via AP Images )

Naruhito, at a succession ceremony Wednesday, pledged to emulate his father in seeking peace and staying close to the people. He received the imperial regalia of a sacred sword and jewel as proof of his succession.

Worshippers carry a portable shrine near Kyoto Imperial Palace to celebrate a new Emperor’s enthronement in Kyoto on May 1, 2019. ( The Yomiuri Shimbun via AP Images )

On his way to and from the palace, he lowered his car window, smiled and waved at people cheering on the sidewalk.

Naruhito is the first emperor born after World War II and the first to have studied overseas.

___

Follow Mari Yamaguchi on Twitter at https://www.twitter.com/mariyamaguchi