Kyoto Imperial Palace

Kyoto, Japan | C.1855

Photo Credit: Marco Catullo

At the center of the city nested inside Kyoto Imperial Park was the former home of Japan’s Emperor. The Imperial family lived here until 1868, when the capital and Emperor permanently moved to Tokyo.

Through these gates visitors will find the Hall for State Ceremonies where the Emperor’s enthronement ceremony would occur – an ancient ceremony marking the succession to the Chrysanthemum Throne, the world’s oldest continuous hereditary monarchy. The ceremony consists of three main parts.

First: “The Presentation of the Three Sacred Treasures” – a replica of the sword Kusanagi-no-Tsurugi, a necklace of comma-shaped stone beads, and the most important – the mirror Yata no Kagami, which is permanently enshrined in the Ise Grand Shrine. These three treasures were originally given by the Sun goddess, Amaterasu to her grandson when he first descended to earth and become the father of the imperial dynasty.

Next: The Enthronement Ritual. The new Emperor and Empress sit side by side and traditional drums begin the proceedings. The gifts are placed next to them, and a wooden scepter is given to the Emperor who then faces the prime minister, standing in an adjacent courtyard to represent the Japanese people. The two exchange assertions to commit to preserving the monarchy and its interests. And a synchronized “three cheers of Bonzai” (like a ‘hurrah’) from all of those present is followed by a 21-gun salute by Japanese Self-Defense Forces.

Finally, a few months after ascending the throne, The Daijō-sai or The Great Thanksgiving Festival marks the end of the proceedings. This signifies the unification of the new Emperor to the sun-goddess Amaterasu. It is a Shinto rite of passage where the call is read by the Emperor and Empress separately with about 500 people present in a special complex specifically built for the festival.

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