TOKYO, Nov 8, 2020, Kyodo. Crown Prince Fumihito was formally declared first in line to the Chrysanthemum Throne on Sunday and vowed to fulfill his duties at a ceremony in Tokyo that had been postponed for seven months due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, Kyodo News reported.
Emperor Naruhito, dressed in a traditional dark orange robe, proclaimed his younger brother as crown prince to the people of Japan and the world in the “Rikkoshi Senmei no gi” ceremony held in the morning at the Matsu no Ma stateroom of the Imperial Palace, more than a year after he ascended the throne in May last year.
“I will carry out my duties by deeply acknowledging my responsibilities as crown prince,” the 54-year-old prince, dressed in an orange robe, said, reading from a script in front of the emperor and Empress Masako.
The ceremony, held as a state occasion, was part of the “Rikkoshi no rei,” which concludes a series of imperial succession rituals following the abdication in April last year of former Emperor Akihito, 86, the father of the emperor and the crown prince and the first Japanese monarch to step down in over 200 years.
The crown prince was joined by his wife, Crown Princess Kiko, 54, dressed in traditional court attire of kimono and “hakama” skirt, in the rite. It was held in front of other adult members of the imperial family and 46 guests, most of whom wore face masks as a measure against the novel coronavirus.
In a congratulatory message called “yogoto,” Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said the crown prince has supported his brother and father, while also taking up duties together with the crown princess.
“The (Japanese) people have revered the crown prince and the crown princess after seeing how they have shown kindness in their interactions with people, so it is a pleasure to see the Rikkoshi no rei being held.”
The roughly 15-minute ceremony was initially planned for April 19, but postponed after the Japanese government declared a state of emergency earlier that month over the global health crisis.
The number of attendants such as government officials, heads of local municipalities and foreign dignitaries, was significantly reduced from the 350 expected before the virus outbreak.
Crown Prince Fumihito later inherited an imperial sword passed down by crown princes as a symbol of status at the palace’s Ho-o no Ma room.
Later in the day, he will meet again with the 60-year-old emperor and Empress Masako, 56, in a ceremony called “Choken no gi” to thank them following the proclamation.
The ceremonies, together referred to as Rikkoshi no rei, follow the styles of the 1991 “Rittaishi no rei” rites in which the current emperor was proclaimed crown prince and celebrated his new status with guests.
In order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, court banquets and the signing of names at the Imperial Palace by the general public to celebrate the event were canceled.
Crown Prince Fumihito is known as one of the outspoken members of the imperial family, often expressing his views on how the family should stand in modern times. The father of three is also known for his interest in animals, researching the domestication of chickens, among other topics.
Recently, the crown prince has stayed in his residence as much as possible and has performed his duties online amid the pandemic. He has also received online briefings on the virus with his family.
Japan’s 1947 Imperial House Law states that only males in the paternal line can ascend the throne, leaving only three heirs — Crown Prince Fumihito, his 14-year-old son Prince Hisahito and the emperor’s uncle Prince Hitachi, 84.
Suga has said the government will begin to investigate measures to ensure stable succession in the shrinking imperial family following the proclamation ceremonies for the crown prince, as the Japanese parliament adopted a nonbinding resolution in 2017 requesting the government address the matter.
The number of imperial family members has been dwindling, with female members abandoning their imperial status after they marry commoners. Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako have a daughter, Princess Aiko, 18.
However, the government may shelve making a decision in the near future on how to achieve stable imperial succession given that public opinion on the issue remains divided, government sources have said.
The imperial succession last year also necessitated a change of gengo, or imperial era name, widely used in Japanese calendars, and a slew of ceremonies and rituals.