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Japan's new Emperor Naruhito and new Empress Masako are driven to Imperial Palace to greet Emperor Emeritus Akihito and Empress Emerita Michiko in Tokyo. — AP

In pictures: Japanese welcome era of 'beautiful harmony' as Emperor Naruhito ascends throne

Japanese, enjoying an unprecedented 10-day holiday, pack into Meiji Jingu shrine in central Tokyo to celebrate.
Published May 01, 2019 04:04pm

Japan celebrated the beginning of the new imperial era of Reiwa or "beautiful harmony" on Wednesday as new Emperor Naruhito ascended the Chrysanthemum Throne a day after his father Akihito abdicated.

Japan's new Emperor Naruhito, followed by new Empress Masako, Crown Prince and Crown Princess Akishino, walks to make his first address during a ritual after succeeding his father Akihito at Imperial Palace in Tokyo. — AP
Japan's new Emperor Naruhito, followed by new Empress Masako, Crown Prince and Crown Princess Akishino, walks to make his first address during a ritual after succeeding his father Akihito at Imperial Palace in Tokyo. — AP

A vehicle carrying Princess Aiko, the only child of new Emperor Naruhito and new Empress Masako, arrives at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo. — AFP
A vehicle carrying Princess Aiko, the only child of new Emperor Naruhito and new Empress Masako, arrives at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo. — AFP

A vehicle carrying Prince Hisahito, son of Crown Prince Akishino and Crown Princess Kiko, leaves the Imperial Palace in Tokyo on May 1, 2019. — AFP
A vehicle carrying Prince Hisahito, son of Crown Prince Akishino and Crown Princess Kiko, leaves the Imperial Palace in Tokyo on May 1, 2019. — AFP

A vehicle carrying Japan’s Princess Mako, daughter of Crown Prince Akishino, arrives at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo. — AFP
A vehicle carrying Japan’s Princess Mako, daughter of Crown Prince Akishino, arrives at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo. — AFP

It is the first time in more than 200 years that a member of the world's oldest royal family has chosen to step down, and solemn rituals accompanied both Akihito's abdication and Naruhito's enthronement.

Japanese, enjoying an unprecedented 10-day holiday following Akihito's abdication, packed into Meiji Jingu shrine in central Tokyo to celebrate.

This handout photo taken and released by Japan's Imperial Household Agency on April 30, 2019 shows Japan's Emperor Akihito (C) speaking during his abdication ceremony in front of other members of the royal family and top government officials at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo, as Empress Michiko (R) looks on. — AFP
This handout photo taken and released by Japan's Imperial Household Agency on April 30, 2019 shows Japan's Emperor Akihito (C) speaking during his abdication ceremony in front of other members of the royal family and top government officials at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo, as Empress Michiko (R) looks on. — AFP

People take a photo of "Reiwa", new Emperor Naruhito's era's name, during a countdown event at Maharaja Roppongi, at midnight on Wednesday. — AP
People take a photo of "Reiwa", new Emperor Naruhito's era's name, during a countdown event at Maharaja Roppongi, at midnight on Wednesday. — AP

Residents show the extra edition of newspapers reporting new Emperor Naruhito's accession to the throne in Tokyo on May 1, 2019. — AFP
Residents show the extra edition of newspapers reporting new Emperor Naruhito's accession to the throne in Tokyo on May 1, 2019. — AFP

People celebrate the start of Japan's new Reiwa imperial era and Emperor Naruhito's accession to the throne in Tokyo. — Reuters
People celebrate the start of Japan's new Reiwa imperial era and Emperor Naruhito's accession to the throne in Tokyo. — Reuters

As crowds lined the path, some 30 Shinto priests wearing traditional white robes and tall black hats marched under a huge gate towards the main building to conduct a festive ceremony to “report” the new emperor's accession to his ancestors, the Shinto gods.

Shinto priests recite religious words before entering the main building to conduct a festive ceremony to report the enthronement of the new emperor to the royal family's ancestors at Meiji Shrine in Tokyo. — AFP
Shinto priests recite religious words before entering the main building to conduct a festive ceremony to report the enthronement of the new emperor to the royal family's ancestors at Meiji Shrine in Tokyo. — AFP

People receive Japanese sake to celebrate the change of an era at Meiji Shrine in Tokyo on May 1, 2019. — AFP
People receive Japanese sake to celebrate the change of an era at Meiji Shrine in Tokyo on May 1, 2019. — AFP

An archer on horseback dressed as an ancient samurai warrior shoots an arrow at a target during an event to celebrate Japan's new imperial "Reiwa" era at Meiji Shrine in Tokyo. — AFP
An archer on horseback dressed as an ancient samurai warrior shoots an arrow at a target during an event to celebrate Japan's new imperial "Reiwa" era at Meiji Shrine in Tokyo. — AFP

Naruhito officially became emperor at midnight but the transition was formalised in a ceremony today.

The ritual, off-limits to all royal women, saw 59-year-old Naruhito accept the regalia relinquished by his father a day earlier: a sacred sword and jewel as well as the seal of the state and the imperial seal.

People carry a portable shrine or "mikoshi" during a ceremony to celebrate the accession of the new emperor to the throne in the Nakanobu neighbourood of Tokyo. — AFP
People carry a portable shrine or "mikoshi" during a ceremony to celebrate the accession of the new emperor to the throne in the Nakanobu neighbourood of Tokyo. — AFP

Participants wearing traditional "hanten" stand next to the banners during a ceremony to celebrate the accession of the new emperor to the throne in the Nakanobu neighbourood of Tokyo. — AFP
Participants wearing traditional "hanten" stand next to the banners during a ceremony to celebrate the accession of the new emperor to the throne in the Nakanobu neighbourood of Tokyo. — AFP

A woman plays a drum during a ceremony to celebrate the accession of the new emperor to the throne in the Nakanobu neighbourhood of Tokyo on May 1, 2019. — AFP
A woman plays a drum during a ceremony to celebrate the accession of the new emperor to the throne in the Nakanobu neighbourhood of Tokyo on May 1, 2019. — AFP

Children play drums during a ceremony to celebrate the accession of the new emperor to the throne in the Nakanobu neighbourood of Tokyo on May 1, 2019. — AFP
Children play drums during a ceremony to celebrate the accession of the new emperor to the throne in the Nakanobu neighbourood of Tokyo on May 1, 2019. — AFP

A motorcade transporting Japan's new Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako leaves through one of the gates of the Imperial Palace in Tokyo. — AFP
A motorcade transporting Japan's new Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako leaves through one of the gates of the Imperial Palace in Tokyo. — AFP

Naruhito then delivered his first address to the nation, vowing to “act according to the Constitution” while “always turning my thoughts to the people and standing with them”.

Japan's Emperor Naruhito, flanked by Empress Masako, delivers a speech during a ceremony called Sokui-go-Choken-no-gi, his first audience after the accession to the throne, at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo. — Reuters
Japan's Emperor Naruhito, flanked by Empress Masako, delivers a speech during a ceremony called Sokui-go-Choken-no-gi, his first audience after the accession to the throne, at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo. — Reuters

Japan’s new Emperor Naruhito (L) and Empress Masako (2nd L) listen to congratulatory words from Crown Prince Akishino (2nd R) and Crown Princess Kiko (R) during an event to receive a celebration of the accession to the throne at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo on May 1, 2019. — AFP
Japan’s new Emperor Naruhito (L) and Empress Masako (2nd L) listen to congratulatory words from Crown Prince Akishino (2nd R) and Crown Princess Kiko (R) during an event to receive a celebration of the accession to the throne at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo on May 1, 2019. — AFP

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (L) delivers a message for new Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako (not in picture) during a ceremony to receive the first audience after the accession to the throne at the Matsu-no-Ma state room inside the Imperial Palace in Tokyo. — AFP
Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (L) delivers a message for new Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako (not in picture) during a ceremony to receive the first audience after the accession to the throne at the Matsu-no-Ma state room inside the Imperial Palace in Tokyo. — AFP

The new emperor will make his first public appearance on Saturday when he will again address the people of Japan.

The Oxford-educated Naruhito faces the delicate balancing act of continuing his father's legacy of bringing the monarchy closer to the people while upholding the centuries-old traditions of the Chrysanthemum Throne.