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Japan Enters a New Era

Japan’s Prince Akishino Speaks for the First Time About the Postponement of Princess Mako’s Nuptials






Prince Akishino, the younger brother of Japan’s Crown Prince Naruhito, celebrated his 53rd birthday on Friday, November 30. About a week before his birthday, the Prince, accompanied by his wife, Princess Kiko, held a news conference at their residence located in the Akasaka Estate in Moto-Akasaka, Tokyo.


Prince Akishino spoke in public for the first time regarding the postponement of the engagement formalities of his eldest daughter, Princess Mako, and Kei Komuro, her prospective fiance.  


Choosing his words with great care, Prince Akishino said, “It would be difficult to hold the betrothal ceremony (Nosai no Gi) under circumstances in which many people are unconvinced [the marriage] is one to celebrate.”



Prince Akishino said he had conveyed this line of thinking directly to Princess Mako.


Referring to Mr. Komuro, Prince Akishino stated at the news conference, “[Komuro] should provide an appropriate explanation in light of reports of his mother’s monetary troubles [if he wants to marry Princess Mako],” suggesting that an explanation had yet to be provided.


Mostly, however, the Prince spoke about the succession that is happening in 2019 and its accompanying rites.


Costs of the Imperial Succession Rites


Next autumn, the Daijosai — a grand Shinto rite of thanksgiving — will be held in celebration of the imperial succession, marked by the Crown Prince’s accession to the throne on May 1, 2019. The Daijosai rituals accompany the change of the era of Japanese history from the Heisei era to a new era yet to be named.


The Prince said the costs of the ceremony, in his view, should be financed as a private expense of the Imperial Family or from the Imperial Family’s fund, and not as a general government expense. Performing the rite “well-suited to today’s Imperial Family” would be “what the Imperial Family is supposed to be about,” he said.



It is highly unusual for a member of the Imperial Family to disclose in public his or her personal view that runs counter to a government decision.


In the news conference, Prince Akishino, while stressing the Daijosai rite is “absolutely necessary” for marking the succession of the Emperor, pointed out the rite “is, in a sense, a significantly religious event.” For this reason, from the viewpoint of the principle of the separation of religion and state as stipulated by the Constitution, the Daijosai rite should be covered by the “Emperor’s personal expenses,” not from the national treasury, the Prince said.


Although he carried his thoughts in person to the Imperial Household Agency’s Grand Steward, Shinichiro Yamamoto, “he did not listen to me,” the Prince said.


How the Daijosai was Conducted for the Current Emperor


Regarding the Daijosai Shinto rites to be held in November 2019, the government has decided to conduct the rites in the same way as those held in 1990 for Prince Akishino’s father, the present Emperor, who ascended to the throne in 1989. The ceremony in 1990 marked the change of the era of Showa (1926-1989) to the current era of Heisei.



The 1990 rites were financed under the government budget of “palace-related expenses” disbursed for the Imperial Family’s public activities, while the Daijosai rite was treated as an Imperial Family event.


Comments of the Imperial Household Agency


In response to Prince Akishino’s remarks, Grand Steward Yamamoto explained that financing methods for the rites had been decided by the government. He added that the Prince’s comments “should be taken as reiteration of his personal, long-cherished opinion and his view should never be interpreted to have been intended to make a political statement.”


Yamamoto added that the Emperor had called on him to “consult with the Crown Prince” about rituals relating to his enthronement, noting, “We have been pushing ahead with [the preparation for the rituals] by obtaining understanding [from the Crown Prince].”



Prince Akishino Will Have A New Title


In May 2019, Prince Akishino will be given the title “kohshi,” first in line to the throne, following the abdication of the Emperor. At the news conference he said, “I would like to pay my deep respect” to the Emperor and the Empress for supporting the Emperor’s endeavors, as he expressed once again his gratitude to the royal couple.




What is the Daijosai?

The Daijosai Shinto rites signify the first of the annual rituals of “Niinamesai,” or the ceremonial offerings by the Emperor of newly-harvested rice to the deities. The first harvest rite is performed by the new Emperor for the first time after his enthronement, and only once during his reign. It is the most important of the Imperial events.

The Daijosai has a religious aspect. However, when the event was conducted for the first time under the current Constitution for marking the change of the era of Showa to that of Heisei, the rite was considered as not constituting “a state act” which would be prohibited under the Constitution. Instead, it was defined as an event of the Imperial Family.

Ordinary Imperial Family events, including the Niinamesai rites (but not the Daijosai), have been financed with the “private expenses of the Imperial Family” or the Imperial Family’s fund on hand. The Daijosai rite, however, has been characterized as having a public nature under the hereditary system of the Chrysanthemum Throne as prescribed by the Constitution. The expenses for the Daijosai rite for the present Emperor were about JPY2.2 billion (about USD19 million). They were covered by the government budget as “palace-related expenses” and disbursed for the Imperial Family’s public activities.



(Click here to read the original article in Japanese.)



Author: The Sankei Shimbun




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