print PRINT

SOCIETY

Editorial: Together, let us welcome the era of the new Emperor / Symbolism endures; Imperial image evolves

  • May 2, 2019
  • , The Japan News , 07:47 p.m.
  • English Press

With the coming of the season in which the tree buds open and fresh green leaves glisten in the sun, the era of Reiwa has begun to move. We would like to congratulate the new Emperor on succeeding to the throne from the bottom of our hearts.

Following the Kenji-to-Shokei-no-gi ceremony in the Seiden-Matsu-no-Ma state room at the Imperial Palace, the Sokui-go-Choken-no-gi ceremony was held there.

In the Sokui-go-Choken-no-gi, the Emperor said, “I will act according to the Constitution and fulfill my responsibility as the symbol … while always turning my thoughts to the people and standing with them.” His first address as the Emperor was infused with his determination to share joys and sorrows with the people.

It is gratifying that a series of ceremonies for the Imperial succession following the abdication were held without a hitch, and that efforts were made so that consistency with the Constitution was ensured.

Meeting the people

The Emperor was born in 1960, when Japan was in its high economic growth period. In a departure from conventional Imperial family custom, his parents raised him themselves.

It is said that it was the 1964 Tokyo Olympics when the Emperor accompanied his parents in their official duty for the first time. The Emperor grew up while seeing up close his father standing with the people and sincerely tackling official duties.

In 2017, when he was the crown prince, the Emperor said at a press conference that he would like to continue to share joys and sorrows with the people as his parents did. His comment indicated that he would inherit the image of the symbol of the nation, as the Emperor in the Heisei era had established.

The Emperor in the Heisei era, who spent his early childhood days in wartime, displayed his desire for peace through his visits to various locations to console the souls of the war dead. The new Emperor, together with his parents, also offered silent prayers on the days marking the end of the Battle of Okinawa, the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the end of World War II.

The Emperor, who was born after the end of the war, will likewise fulfill the role of handing down to the next generation the history of the tragedies of war and the importance of peace.

In summer last year, the Emperor escorted a woman who competes in marathons for the visually impaired on a practice run at the Akasaka Imperial Palace, which reflects his open and friendly personality. There must be many people who feel a sense of closeness to the Emperor, who attaches importance to direct interactions with the people.

Practical knowledge

The Emperor has for many years conducted research on water-related issues such as river improvement and water transport. He also is keenly interested in disaster damage prevention. During the Heisei era, Japan was repeatedly struck by natural disasters such as torrential rain and typhoons. There are high expectations that the knowledge accumulated by the Emperor will be used in a variety of situations.

The Emperor also is the first to have studied abroad. He devoted himself to his studies at the University of Oxford in Britain for two years from when he was 23, and has made many overseas trips since then. In this increasingly globalized age, diplomatic activities performed by the Imperial family have a very important role. Together with the Empress, who is a former diplomat, the Emperor will be active in promoting international goodwill.

“I will protect you with all my might for the rest of my life.” These words by the Emperor swayed the Empress to marry him and become a member of the Imperial family. The Empress has been receiving treatment since 2003, but in recent years the scope of her official duties has been expanding. The Empress has accompanied the Emperor on all his visits to areas affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake in March 2011.

However, her medical team has indicated the Empress “is still on the path to recovery” and that her condition has its ups and downs. Their opinion is that placing “excessive expectations” on the Empress could adversely affect her. It is hoped that close attention will continue to be paid to the Empress’ health and she will steadily perform official duties. The people of Japan will need to warmly watch over her.

Prince Akishino has become first in the line of succession to the throne. Prince Akishino has assumed the title of koshi, but in effect he will fulfill the role of a crown prince. He has carried out many official duties over the years, and now he will assume an extra level of responsibility.

From the Meiji era to the present, this is the first time that an emperor’s younger brother has assumed a position in which he will be treated as a crown prince. There had been a continuous pattern of a father being the emperor and his oldest son being the crown prince. The Imperial family in the Reiwa era will revolve around the 59-year-old Emperor and 53-year-old Crown Prince Akishino.

Support needed

In February, the Emperor said that “just as new winds blow in every age,” the role of the Imperial family changes in each age. The search for a new image of the Imperial family likely will continue.

The Imperial Household Agency must communicate properly with the Emperor and Crown Prince Akishino and provide the support they need.

Following the ascension of the Emperor, the number of male Imperial family members with the right to assume the Chrysanthemum Throne has dropped to three — the fewest since the end of World War II. The Emperor’s uncle, Prince Hitachi, is 83, and Prince Hisahito, the oldest son of Crown Prince Akishino and Crown Princess Kiko, is 12.

It is anticipated that more female members of the Imperial family will lose their status once they marry. The number of Imperial family members able to perform official duties will unavoidably dwindle.

To ensure a stable line of succession and preserve the Imperial family, consideration should be given to options such as establishing female Imperial branches.

During the 30 years of the Heisei era, the structure of Japanese families became more diversified. The ways people build interpersonal relationships also changed. These trends are unlikely to change in the Reiwa era.

In June 2018, the Emperor wrote that this is becoming an age in which person-to-person connections are more important than ever. The people of Japan should think deeply about these words as they embark on life in the Reiwa era.

  • Ambassador
  • Ukraine
  • OPINION POLLS
  • COVID-19
  • Trending Japan