On December 1st, the Imperial Household Council decided that 2019 (Heisei 31) would be the first year of the new imperial era. Vast numbers of foreign dignitaries are expected to attended the imperial accession to the throne.
It is as if that year will not be busy enough with the April unified local elections, the July Upper House elections, and G20 Summit, and the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD).
Government officials call it the “2019 Problem.” Some, like a senior political writer of the Sankei Shimbun, Kouji Sugimoto, predict it to be “an unbelievable year.” Here he explains why.
Crown Prince Naruhito, 57, will ascend to the Chrysanthemum Throne on May 1, 2019, after Emperor Akihito will officially step down on April 30, 2019. When the previous accession was held in November 1990, domestic and overseas guests from 158 countries and regions—including 7 royals, 46 presidents, and 11 prime ministers—gathered to celebrate the accession at the “Enthronement Ceremony.” The number of bilateral summits carried out in conjunction with the accession, including those with vice presidents, climbed to 57 foreign ministers’ meetings, with 58 countries and regions.
The accession at the “Enthronement Ceremony” in November 1990.
Even at the G20 summit, there will be droves of foreign dignitaries. Apart from the leaders of the 20 participating countries and regions, other invited heads of state and chiefs of international organizations will also visit. At this year’s G20 summit held in Hamburg, Germany, representatives from seven countries and eight international organizations also attended.
Furthermore, when the TICAD began in 1993, a mere five leaders attended the first summit. However at the June 2013 TICAD held in Yokohama, 39 leaders from 51 participating countries attended.
For events with large numbers of foreign dignitaries, the entire Ministry of Foreign Affairs is involved in the preparations, usually establishing a secretariat approximately one year ahead of the meeting, and recalling ministry staff from consulates and embassies. One of the organizers of a certain international conference said that holding the G20 summit and TICAD in 2019 with a limited pool of employees “will become a scramble for human resources.”
There will be an enormous amount of preparation work necessary, such as arranging meeting dates with foreign governments, confirming accommodation, and transport and security. And the preparations are not limited to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. They will inevitably become a major undertaking, involving local governments and even the private sector.
The parade at the “Enthronement Ceremony” in November 1990.
The government appears to be poised to begin preparations in earnest for the series of international meetings from the start of 2018. However, the issue is that concrete preparations cannot move forward without confirmed dates for all events.
Despite several causes for concern, there has never been a year when Japan has held the focus of the international community as it will in 2019.
“We know it is going to be tough, but the dignity of the Japanese Government is on the line,” mumbled a government official, as though reminding himself.
(Click here to read the original article in Japanese.)