Connect with us


EDITORIAL | An Appreciation of the Emperor for Honoring Imperial Tradition

Emperor Naruhito has inherited the spirit of dedication of his predecessors and has dedicated himself to the interests and happiness of the people of Japan.



The Emperor and Empress speak with earthquake disaster victims during a visit to an evacuation center at Matsunami Junior High School in the Noto Peninsula. (Pool photograph)

It has been five years since Emperor Naruhito ascended the Chrysanthemum Throne. 

His position is that of a constitutional monarch in line with Article 1 of the Constitution of Japan. It states in part, "The Emperor shall be the symbol of the State and the unity of the People."

We would like to express our deep gratitude to His Majesty, who has prayed for peace for his nation and people and performed his various duties tirelessly. 

We would also like to express our sincere respect for the members of the imperial family who have consistently supported the Emperor, including Her Majesty Empress Masako and Crown Prince Akishino

The retired Emperor Emeritus and Empress Emerita did a splendid job of performing their official duties during the Heisei period. They are enjoying a quiet retirement at the Akasaka Estate in Motoakasaka, Tokyo. We hope that they will continue to enjoy good health. 

At the general public greeting to commemorate his 64th birthday, His Majesty the Emperor Naruhito waved to people who came to pay their respects at the Chowaden Reception Hall of the Imperial Palace on the morning of February 23. (©Kyodo)

A Rainbow at the Enthronement Ceremony

The Emperor's reign began in a highly auspicious fashion. It had been raining, but the rain stopped and a rainbow appeared in the sky above Tokyo before the Sokuireisei Seiden no Gi (Ceremony of Accession) on October 22, 2019. Thereafter, the weather stayed fine throughout the celebratory parade. The Daijosai (Great Thanksgiving Ceremony) is said to be the most important of the many enthronement-related ceremonies. It, too, proceeded smoothly and the Japanese people celebrated as one. 

The five years since have been very busy for the Emperor and Empress. Following the outbreak of the global COVID-19 pandemic in the spring of 2020, members of the imperial family were severely restricted in their participation in various activities. Within those limitations, the Emperor and Empress both did their best to stand by the people. 

Although personal appearances became difficult out of a desire to prevent the spread of infections, the first couple remained active online, for example by participating in important events such as the National Cultural Festival. They also made efforts to interact with people living in disaster zones or having a connection to welfare facilities. 


In February 2022, at a press conference held before his 62nd birthday, the Emperor told reporters, "Visiting various parts of the nation online proved a meaningful and rewarding experience for us since we were able to listen to and interact with local people." 

Resuming In-person Official Duties 

Following the resumption of imperial tours in the fall of 2022, Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako have been actively developing opportunities to engage directly with the public. In October 2022, as their first official trip after the enthronement, they attended the Churashima cultural festival in Okinawa. They visited the national cemetery for the war dead at Itoman City. And they also met with bereaved family members of people killed in the Battle of Okinawa

Mayor Mitsuteru Yoshimura explains the situation of the Anamizucho shopping district as Their Majesties the Emperor and Empress visit the heavily earthquake-damaged Noto Peninsula on April 12, 2024. (Pool photo)

The Imperial Couple was deeply concerned for the victims of the mammoth earthquake that struck the Noto Peninsula at the beginning of 2024. Thereafter, they visited the disaster zone on separate occasions in March and April. Those were just as soon as the affected area was ready to receive them. 

The Emperor and Empress have also played an extremely prominent role in cultivating international friendships. In July 2021, in his capacity as honorary president of the Tokyo Games, His Majesty declared the official opening of the Tokyo Olympics. He also attended the state funeral for Queen Elizabeth II in London in September 2022 before a state visit to Indonesia the following year. 

Total Dedication to His Duties

His regular official duties have also kept the Emperor busy. In 2023 alone, he signed and stamped his official seal on 895 government-related documents. Furthermore, during the same year, on 240 separate occasions, the Emperor took part in press conferences, tea parties, or banquets with experts from various fields or foreign dignitaries at the imperial palace. 

The Emperor, Empress and their daughter Princess Aiko are greeted as they arrive at the Imperial Farm on May 2. Takanezawa-cho, Tochigi Prefecture. (Pool photo)

We should be extremely grateful for how enthusiastically His Majesty has participated in ritual ceremonies at the imperial palace. 

Japan's emperors throughout the ages have never neglected rituals to pray for peace and happiness for their people. 

That was true for the Showa Emperor (Emperor Hirohito) and the Heisei Emperor (Emperor Akihito). Emperor Naruhito has clearly inherited that spirit of dedication. 

Japanese emperors are expected to personally perform 10 major traditional rituals each year. They include the Niinamesai harvest ritual and spring and autumn ceremonies honoring the imperial ancestors. Emperor Naruhito is performing them wholeheartedly.

The Emperor's prayers and the public's gratitude for them built solidarity among the nation's people centered on the imperial family. That is the essence of Japan's beauty and our national character. 

The Emperor, Empress, and their daughter Princess Aiko walk through the grazing grounds of the Imperial Ranch on May 2, 2024, at Takanezawa-cho, Tochigi Prefecture. (Pool photo)

Ensuring the Imperial Succession

Hopefully, this generation will continue to maintain Japan's national character, preserved by successive emperors and our forefathers. To do so, it is important to preserve the legitimacy of imperial succession

Japan is the oldest continuous polity in the world. Continuity was preserved because each emperor succeeding to the throne adhered to the same principles. That has been true for the 126 emperors who have ascended the throne since the first emperor, Jimmu Tenno. The most important principle we can derive from this tradition is that inheritance without exception should proceed through the male line. 

Emperor Naruhito has already announced for all to know both at home and abroad that Crown Prince Akishino will serve as the next emperor. The Crown Prince's own son, Prince Hisahito, would then inherit the throne. Thus, the orthodox line of succession has again been made clear. 

Nonetheless, Prince Hisahito is currently the only eligible successor within the next generation in the direct line traced from Emperor Naruhito through Crown Prince Akishino. Consequently, the government submitted a report to the Diet on how the imperial family could be buttressed as an institution upon the enthronement of Prince Hisahito. In response, members of the various parties offered their opinions. 

The majority agreed that males who, under the system prevailing before the war, would have been considered members of the imperial family should have that status restored. It is a step that would increase the number of eligible successors to the throne. 

We would like to see a consensus reached on the issue during the current Diet session. Reform of the system should then proceed with all due speed. 


(Read the editorial in Japanese.)

Author: Editorial Board, The Sankei Shimbun