TOKYO (AP) – Crown Prince Bumihito, the younger brother of Japanese Emperor Naruhito, was formally inaugurated on Sunday at a traditional palace ceremony on the Chrysanthemum throne, which was postponed for seven months on Sunday after being reduced by a corona virus infection.
The ceremony for the 54-year-old crown prince, known as Prince Akishino, culminated in the imperial successive rites that began in May last year when Naruhido ascended the throne after their 86-year-old father Akihito resigned.
Inside the palace’s most prestigious pine chamber, 60-year-old Naruhido, whose brother has now officially declared himself the crown prince, is the first to succeed to the throne of the world’s oldest monarchy.
“I declare that Prince Fumihito is now the crown prince in the country and abroad,” Naruhito said in his red-brown robe and helmet. Fumihido, in an orange dress and his wife, responded with Crown Princess Kiko: “I deeply accept my responsibilities as Crown Prince and fulfill my duties.”
The approximately 15-minute ceremony, originally scheduled for April 19, was postponed after the Japanese government declared a state of emergency earlier that month due to the epidemic.
The ceremony on Sunday measured about 350 staff members, including Prime Minister Yoshihide Suka and other top government officials, as well as district representatives and elected foreign dignitaries.
At a separate, closed ceremony late Sunday, Bumihito received an imperial sword symbolizing his status as crown prince.
Other events, including the public signing of palace banquets and greetings, have been canceled as part of anti-virus measures.
Sunday’s proclamation for the Crown Prince leads the government to discuss what to do with the severe shortage of heirs.
Naruhito’s heir left only two young men on the throne – Fumihito and his 14-year-old son Hisahito. Naruhito’s 18-year-old daughter Iko and the crown prince’s two daughters, Mako and Kago, are not in line because they are women.
Japan’s Imperial House law, often based on a pre-war constitution, does not allow a female emperor and prohibits women from marrying commoners.
In 2005 the government considered the possibility of female emperors, but the debate ceased when Hisahido was born the following year. As Iko has become increasingly popular, studies show that most Japanese have female emperors.
Suu Kyi recently said her government would begin exploring ways to secure a permanent imperial heir after the crown prince’s proclamation.
Official duties increased during the reign of the very famous former emperor Akihito, who spoke actively with the public, including visiting disaster-prone areas to comfort residents.
Fumihido, one of the most outspoken members of the imperial family, has expressed his views on how the family should adapt to modern times. Although he declined to comment on whether female emperors should be allowed, he said he believed state duties could be shared equally regardless of gender.
There are currently 13 women in the imperial family, including six who are likely to get married and lose royal status in the coming years.
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