New Emperor swears to fulfill responsibility as symbol of the state

Japan's new Emperor has begun his reign now that his father has abdicated. The Emperor made his first official address in his new role.

The 126th Emperor of Japan attended a ceremony on Wednesday morning at the Imperial Palace, where he made a speech in his new role.

"I have hereby succeeded to the throne pursuant to the Constitution of Japan and the Special Measures Law on the Imperial House Law. When I think about the important responsibility I have assumed, I am filled with a sense of solemnity.
Looking back, His Majesty the Emperor Emeritus, since acceding to the throne, performed each of his duties in earnest for more than 30 years, while praying for world peace and the happiness of the people, and at all times sharing in the joys and sorrows of the people. He showed profound compassion through his own bearing. I would like to express my heartfelt respect and appreciation of the comportment shown by His Majesty the Emperor Emeritus as the symbol of the State and of the unity of the people of Japan.
In acceding to the throne, I swear that I will reflect deeply on the course followed by His Majesty the Emperor Emeritus and bear in mind the path trodden by past emperors, and will devote myself to self-improvement. I also swear that I will act according to the Constitution and fulfill my responsibility as the symbol of the State and of the unity of the people of Japan, while always turning my thoughts to the people and standing with them. I sincerely pray for the happiness of the people and the further development of the nation, as well as the peace of the world."

The Emperor officially met the representatives of the people for the first time since taking the throne. Empress Masako was beside him. Members of the imperial family also attended, including Crown Prince Akishino. Around 260 other people attended, including Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the heads of both chambers of the Diet, the chief justice of the supreme court, and local government leaders.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe offered greetings on behalf of the people:

"We respect Your Majesty as the symbol of the State and of the unity of the people. In a drastically changing global situation, we are determined to ensure a glorious future for Japan, a country that is peaceful, full of hope, and a place that we can be proud of. We are also resolved to create an era in which people unite their hearts and develop their culture. We sincerely hope that the Reiwa era will be a peaceful one, and the imperial family will further prosper."

The Emperor has had his first audience with representatives of the people. The Sokui-go-Choken-no-gi started at 11:12 a.m. in the Matsu-no-Ma stateroom of the Imperial Palace.

Ahead of the ceremony, another accession ceremony was held in the stateroom in the Imperial Palace to mark the new Emperor's inheritance of the imperial regalia and the state and privy seals. The Emperor entered the room behind senior officials of the Imperial Household Agency.

Of the imperial family members, only male adults were in attendance. Chamberlains brought in boxes containing a sacred sword and jewel, the imperial regalia inherited by Emperors as proof of enthronement. The chamberlains also brought in the state and privy seals used by the Emperor to stamp documents, part of his official duties.

The ceremony, Kenji-to-Shokei-no-gi, marking the new Emperor's succession of the sacred sword and jewel began at around 10:30 a.m. in the Matsu-no-Ma stateroom.

The new Emperor's longtime friend, Shin Tachibana, a classmate from kindergarten to junior high school, expressed his happiness and offered support to the Emperor should there be anything he can do.

Tachibana describes Emperor Naruhito as a considerate person who always acts respectfully to others. He says his greatest hope is that the Emperor will continue to be himself. He told the Emperor: "All the Japanese people will be watching you, so please watch over the country's development."

Issei Nomura, a former aide to Emperor Naruhito, says he hopes the Emperor and Empress Masako will reach out to the people of Japan. Nomura served as Grand Master of the Crown Prince's Household for five years from 2006.

Nomura said the Emperor has expressed his resolution to share the joys and sorrows of the Japanese people and continue to think about how to be the symbol of the state and the unity of the people. Nomura said this is an important matter.

Keiko Kawagoe, a long-time friend of Empress Masako, said she wanted to congratulate the Empress from the bottom of her heart. She added that all of their friends from school are eager to celebrate.

Kawagoe says Empress Masako has been a friendly person since she was a child, and treats everyone equally. She says she believes Empress Masako's attitude will touch many hearts.

Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako.

Emperor Naruhito is 59 years old and was born on February 23, 1960. He is the first Emperor born after World War Two.

This is Japan's first imperial succession from a living Emperor in more than 200 years. For the first time in Japan's modern history, it has both a reigning and an abdicated Emperor at the same time.

The Imperial Palace grounds will be open to the public on May 4th to celebrate the enthronement. Throughout the day, the Emperor and Empress will appear on the palace balcony to greet well-wishers. The Emperor will deliver a speech to the people of Japan.