The sacred traditions of a Japanese enthronement ceremony

Japan's Emperor Naruhito will take part in a traditional enthronement ceremony on Oct. 22. (File/AFP)
Updated 20 October 2019

The sacred traditions of a Japanese enthronement ceremony

DUBAI: The world’s oldest monarchy, Japan witnessed earlier this year the historic abdication of Emperor Akihito.

He became the nation’s first ruler in nearly 200 years to step down from his imperial seat, known as the Takamikura (Chrysanthemum Throne). Next in line to rule the Japanese people and the canopied throne is his son Naruhito, 59.

On Oct. 22, a sophisticated enthronement ceremony will take place. Royals, dignitaries and heads of state from 195 countries are expected to attend this major event.

By the early 20th century, the enthronement ceremony was usually held in the historically courtly city of Kyoto, the former capital of Japan.

This meticulous and somewhat private affair is meant to introduce the new emperor to the world. It is deeply embedded in traditional rituals that go back many years.

On the day of the ceremony, which will take place in the prestigious main hall of Tokyo’s Imperial Palace and last about 30 minutes, the traditionally dressed Naruhito will announce his accession to the revered sun deity Amaterasu Omikami of Shinto, the most practiced religion in Japan.

As Naruhito visits ancestral shrines on this day, he is accompanied with a sacred sword and an unseen jewel — denoting his legitimacy as emperor — that were passed down to him from his father.

“By definition, the emperor is an intermediary or a direct descendent … of the highest (deity) in the Japanese pantheon … It’s a religious and not just a political ceremony,” Dr. Griseldis Kirsch, a senior lecturer of contemporary Japanese culture at London’s School of Oriental and African Studies, told Arab News.

Representing the Japanese public, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will congratulate the new emperor by delivering three “Banzai” (“long live the emperor”) cheers to the new imperial couple.

Later on, on Nov. 10, a special procession will take place in the streets of Tokyo. Greeting thousands of flag-waving citizens, Naruhito and his wife Masako will be ferried around in a bespoke convertible Toyota Century limousine from the Imperial Palace to their new residence, the Akasaka Estate.

The warm tradition of meeting the celebratory masses was first introduced by Naruhito’s father.

Decoder

What's Takamikura?

It's what they call the seat of the emperor of Japan. The Takamikura or Chrysanthemum Throne is located in the capital, Tokyo. Emperor Naruhito took over as Japan's monarch on May 1, 2019, after the abdication of his father, Emperor Akihito. An enthronement ceremony will take place on Oct. 22. 2019. Naruhito is Japan's 126th emperor.


Iraq Pavilion at Venice Biennale shuts in solidarity with protesters

The Iraq Pavilion at the Venice Biennale has shut down in solidarity with protesters. Supplied
Updated 13 November 2019

Iraq Pavilion at Venice Biennale shuts in solidarity with protesters

  • In a show of solidarity with anti-government protestors, the Iraq Pavilion at the Venice Biennale has shut down
  • Initially set to run until Nov. 24, the exhibition entitled “Fatherland” was closed on Nov. 5.

DUBAI: Iraq is currently in the midst of ongoing anti-government protests that have claimed the lives of more than 260 Iraqis since they erupted earlier this month. In a show of solidarity, the Iraq Pavilion at the Venice Biennale has shut down.

Initially set to run until Nov. 24, the exhibition entitled “Fatherland” was closed on Nov. 5.

“Fatherland” is a collection of expressionist paintings by Iraqi-Kurdish artist Serwan Baran that were commissioned by Baghdad-based non-profit organization the Ruya Foundation, which in an official statement shared that the move was to show support to “the popular youth uprisings that have erupted in Iraq against state corruption and deteriorating economic and living conditions.”

“We condemn the use of violence against peaceful protesting, and the bloodshed that has led to the death of over 265 protesters so far,” read the statement shared on the organization’s Twitter account. “Peaceful protesting is a basic right, enshrined in Article 38.c of the Iraqi Constitution.”

“Since our founding in late 2012, we have worked hard, frequently in inhospitable circumstances, to create a platform for artists across Iraq to freely express their creativity, in a firm belief that culture is an integral component of any society, and a powerful force for change towards an open and free country. This is particularly important for Iraq, given its difficult recent history and authoritarian past,” it continued.

The Baghdad-based foundation, which was co-founded by Tamara Chalabi, daughter of former Iraqi politician Ahmed Chalabi, has overseen the Iraq Pavilion in Venice since 2013.