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story.lead_photo.caption Japanese Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko stand onstage Tuesday near members of the royal family and top government officials in Tokyo.

TOKYO -- Japan's new Emperor Naruhito inherited Imperial regalia and seals as proof of his succession this morning and pledged in his first public address to follow his father's example in devoting himself to peace and staying close to the people.

Naruhito, 59, ascended to the Chrysanthemum Throne at midnight after Akihito abdicated.

"When I think about the important responsibility I have assumed, I am filled with a sense of solemnity," Naruhito said in his first address as emperor. Naruhito noted that his father was devoted to praying for peace and sharing the joys and sorrows of the people while showing compassion.

Naruhito said he will "reflect deeply" on the path trodden by Akihito and past emperors, and he promised to abide by the constitution to fulfill his responsibility as a national symbol 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," he said.

His wife, Empress Masako, a Harvard-educated former diplomat, and their daughter Princess Aiko were barred from the first ceremony, where only adult male royals participated. Only Naruhito's brother, now Crown Prince Fumihito, and his uncle Prince Hitachi were allowed to witness. Their guests included a female Cabinet minister, however, as the Imperial Household Law has no provision on the gender of the commoners in attendance.

Naruhito was presented with the Imperial regalia of a sword and jewel, each in a box and wrapped in cloth, at a ceremony this morning that marked his first official duty in his new role.

Japan was in a festive mood celebrating an imperial succession that occurred by retirement rather than by death. Many people stood outside the palace Tuesday to reminisce about Akihito's era, others joined midnight events when the transition occurred, and more arrived to celebrate the beginning of Naruhito's reign.

From a car window on his way to palace, Naruhito smiled and waved at the people on the sidewalk who cheered him. He and his family still live at the crown prince's Togu palace until they switch places with his parents.

Naruhito is the nation's 126th emperor, according to a palace count that historians say could include mythical figures until around the fifth century.

The emperor under the country's constitution is a symbol without political power. Naruhito is free of influence from Japan's imperial worship, which was fanned by the wartime militarist government that had deified the emperor as a living god until his grandfather renounced that status after Japan's 1945 war defeat.

Naruhito has promised to emulate his father in seeking peace and staying close to people.

He will also face uncertainties in the Imperial household. Only his younger brother, Prince Akishino, 53, and Akishino's 12-year-old son, Prince Hisahito, can currently succeed him. The Imperial Household Law confines the succession to male heirs, leaving Naruhito's daughter, Aiko, now 17, out of the running.

Naruhito, the first Japanese emperor to have studied abroad, is considered a new breed of royal, his outlook forged by the tradition-defying choices of his parents.

Akihito, 85, took the throne in 1989 and devoted his career to making amends for a war fought in his father's name while taking the aloof monarchy closer to the people.

With his commoner-born wife, Empress Michiko, he reached out to the people, especially those who faced handicaps and discrimination, as well as those hit by disasters.

Akihito will be known as the emperor emeritus and will no longer have official duties.

Naruhito is also the first monarch raised by his own parents, as Akihito and Michiko chose to take care of their children instead of leaving them in the hands of palace staff members. They also supported his choice to attend Oxford University, where he researched the history of the Thames River transportation systems.

Photo by AP
Japanese Emperor Akihito, accompanied by Empress Michiko (right), announces his abdication during a ceremony Tuesday at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo. Akihito, who took the throne 30 years ago, turned over royal duties to his son, Crown Prince Naruhito, who was installed as emperor today.

A Section on 05/01/2019

Print Headline: Emperor Naruhito enthroned in Japan

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