The Japanese people en masse were finally able to greet the new Reiwa Emperor in a public parade through the streets of Tokyo on Sunday, November 10, with citizens several rows thick lining up along the streets of Tokyo, enthusiastically waving flags and shouting "banzai" as the Imperial couple passed in their open car.
The capital was greeted in the morning by a wonderfully blue sky and glorious sunshine, with peak temperatures of 17 degrees celsius — the perfect weather conditions to greet the Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako for the first time since his enthronement on October 22.
The parade was originally scheduled for October 22, right after the enthronement rites, but was postponed in consideration of the thousands affected by the typhoon Hagibis in September and the heavy rains that flooded communities across the country early in October.
Sunday’s parade, witnessed in person by thousands of people and by live broadcast by most of the country, followed an evening of celebration on November 9, where Japanese renowned musicians, including the J-pop idol group ARASHI, performed a song composed for the imperial couple on this occasion.
Naruhito and Masako rode in an open car from 3 P.M, for about half an hour, over a 4.6 km long course, traveling from the Imperial Palace, Nijubashi, around Tokyo station, past the front of the National Diet building, to Akasaka Mitsuke, and then onto Aoyama-dori before finally turning into the Akasaka Palace grounds to the current residence of the Imperial couple. They were serenaded with the national anthem of Japan before entering the residence, followed by other members of the Imperial family.
The car on this occasion, a Toyota Century, was especially designed for the occasion, with a slightly higher back seat to allow the imperial couple to better greet their citizens from their seated position. It was 5.34 meters in length and 1.93 meters in width, and cost about 80 million yen to the Japanese government.
Toyota was chosen on this occasion over Rolls Royce, which was used when Naruhito’s father, Akihito, greeted his citizens in 1990, to put more emphasis on Japanese-made design.
The vehicle features the traditional chrysanthemum symbol of emperor in the front and a sleek design. It's hood was adorned with a special red flag featuring the Imperial symbol. It led the parade, which included cars carrying Crown Prince Akishino, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, among others, for a total of 46 vehicles.
The atmosphere from the early hours of the morning was one of great excitement. People were making their way to the security check stations along the route by 8 A.M., six hours before the parade was scheduled to start. In 1990, some 117,000 people came to greet the Heisei emperor at his parade.
The police did not take chances in their preparations for the occasion - they were seen doing a rehearsal at about 8 A.M. About 27,000 policemen were employed for security and logistics on the day.
Lockers in adjacent stations were taken out of service from Saturday, and visitors to the event were forbidden from carrying dangerous items like explosives, as well as selfie sticks, pets, and scissors. They were searched at 40 security checkpoints along the way before being permitted to enter the restricted area, causing long queues.
The police also took particular precautions against drones, employing jammed guns against the devices as needed.
Click here for more of JAPAN Forward’s coverage of the festivities marking the enthronement of Emperor Naruhito and beginning of the new Reiwa era.
Author: Arielle Busetto