Wasn’t Japan’s Emperor Just Enthroned? The Really Big Throne Is Still to Come

Wasn’t Japan’s Emperor Just Enthroned? The Really Big Throne Is Still to Come


Critics say these cheers (again, foreigners can abstain), led as they are by the prime minister standing below the emperor on his podium, may violate Japan’s Constitution, which states that the emperor is “the symbol of the state and of the unity of the people, deriving his position from the will of the people with whom resides sovereign power.”

Now, things get really interesting.

On the night of Nov. 14, the emperor will take part in another ceremony: a secret ritual, known as the daijosai, that occurs inside two of a series of temporary wooden buildings erected just for the occasion in the east gardens of the Imperial Palace.

Nobody knows for sure what happens during the rites, which have roots in Shinto, Japan’s indigenous religion. The emperor is said to offer rice and other specially prepared foods to Amaterasu Omikami, the sun goddess from whom all emperors, according to legend, are descended.

In part of the ceremony, the emperor enters an inner sanctuary at night on his own, accompanied only by two ladies-in-waiting. Analysts and Shinto ritualists have offered different speculation about what, exactly, Naruhito will do in there while 1,000 guests wait outside.

There is a bed inside the sanctum, so some say the emperor lies down with his ancestors and enters into spiritual communion with the gods. Others say he actually becomes a god (though the emperor’s godlike status was annulled by the Americans after World War II). Another theory holds that he has a conjugal visit with the sun goddess.

What bothers some critics is that about 2.1 billion yen — or more than $19 million — in taxpayer funds is spent on a religious ceremony.

The Japanese Communist Party is boycotting the festivities to protest what it sees as a constitutional violation. Even Crown Prince Akishino, Naruhito’s younger brother, questioned whether the state should be financing a religious rite.



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