On Tuesday, 85-year-old Emperor Akihito officially abdicated the throne in favour of his 59-year-old son, Naruhito. He has become the first Japanese emperor to voluntarily step down. Prince Naruhito's ascension marks the end of the Heisei era and the beginning of the Reiwa era.
The ceremony was attended by male adult male members of the imperial family, as well as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the cabinet ministers and representatives of legislative, judiciary and executive branches. Satsuki Katayama, the minister for regional revitalization and female empowerment, has become the first woman in centuries to witness the ceremony, which is usually off-limits to women. Naruhito's wife and incoming empress Masako and other female members of the royal family were not allowed to attend under the Imperial Household Law.
During the ceremony, imperial chamberlains placed the two of the sacred imperial regalia — a sword and a jewel — along state and privy seals in front of the emperor as symbols of his succession. Legends say that the imperial regalia, which also include a mirror now kept in the Grand Shrines of Ise, were handed over by the Shinto sun goddess, Amaterasu, to her grandson Ninigi-no-Mikoto, who is believed to be the ancestor of Japan’s first emperor Jimmu.
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