Akihito Ascends Chrysanthemum Throne In Ancient Ceremony With AM-Hirohito, Bjt
TOKYO (AP) _ In a short, silent ceremony soon after the death of his father, Emperor Akihito on Saturday ascended the Chrysanthemum Throne and received the mythic symbols of imperial legitimacy - a sword and jewels.
The ancient ceremony began when the new emperor, clad in black morning coat and gray trousers and accompanied by six male members of the imperial family, entered the Matsu no Ma Hall of the Imperial Palace.
For the first time, reporters were allowed to witness the somber ritual, which later was broadcast on national television.
Journalists were led through dimly lit, concrete tunnels to the palace, where they watched through tinted windows that hid them from those at the ceremony.
It lasted just four minutes.
Taking his place before a purple and gold folding screen and high-backed wooden chair bearing the imperial chrysanthemum crest, Akihito stood facing the official witnesses - Prime Minister Noboru Takeshita, 19 Cabinet ministers, the four heads of Parliament and two Supreme Court judges.
The government leaders later were joined by top Imperial Household Agency officials and chamberlains. All wore morning coats and black ties.
With bows, three palace officials presented the seals and two encased objects of the regalia - a sword and jewels - then placed them on short wooden tables before the emperor. The third regalia item, a mirror, is kept at a shrine on the palace grounds.
The regalia, which have deep religious significance to followers of Japan’s native Shinto religion, have never been displayed in public and were encased throughout the rite.
After exchanging bows with those present, Akihito left the room preceded by the sword bearer and followed by the chamberlain carrying the jewels. The imperial and state seals, carried in two purple pouches, were removed after other members of the imperial family had left.
For centuries the regalia have symbolized the divine origin of the world’s oldest imperial family.
According to legend, the mirror was used by the deities to lure the sun goddess Amaterasu out of self-imposed seclusion on the High Celestial Plain and the jewels were given to her after she emerged.
The sword was a token of repentance by her brother, who drew it from a giant eight-tailed, eight-headed snake he killed after being banished from the divine highland for misconduct.
Amaterasu later gave the regalia to her grandson, Ninigi no Mikoto, before sending him to conquer the Japanese islands. He passed them on to Jimmu, another descendant of the sun goddess who by legend was Japan’s first ruler.
Today, the supposed original mirror is kept at the Grand Shrine of Ise, the center of Shinto sun goddess worship 200 miles southwest of Tokyo. The ″original″ sword is at the Atsuta Shrine in Nagoya, central Japan, and the ″original″ jewels, said to be comma-shaped stones, are kept at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo.
Replicas of the sword and mirror, themselves ancient, are used in imperial ascension ceremonies.
Until his death Saturday, Emperor Hirohito slept in a room where the jewels and replica sword are stored.