Emperor Naruhito delivers first speech as Emperor of Japan


A new imperial era called Reiwa - which means order and harmony - has begun and will last throughout his reign.

Emperor Naruhito enters the Imperial Palace by the Hanzomon gate for the "Kenji-to-Shokei-no-gi" accession ceremony in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo, on May 1, 2019.

President Halimah Yacob and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong have written to Japan Emperor Naruhito on Wednesday (May 1) with congratulatory messages on the monarch's ascension to the throne. The screens, rear, shows that Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga unveiled the name of new era "Reiwa".

Japan's new Emperor Naruhito vowed to fulfill his duty as a symbol of state and people as defined under Japan's Constitution in his first address Wednesday, a day after his father abdicated.

The Oxford-educated Naruhito now faces the delicate balancing act of continuing his father's popular legacy while upholding the traditions of the Chrysanthemum Throne that stretch back centuries.

On Wednesday, the 59-year-old Naruhito will inherit the imperial regalia in a 10-minute ceremony that is off-limits to female royals, even his wife Masako.

Naruhito has promised to emulate his father in seeking peace and staying close to the people.

Emperor Akihito of Japan formally stepped down on Tuesday, the first abdication for 200 years in the world's oldest monarchy, as his son Naruhito prepared to take the Chrysanthemum Throne and usher in a new imperial era.

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Earlier, he inherited the Imperial regalia of sword and jewel and seals as proof of his succession in his first official duty as emperor.

President Halimah also said Singaporeans appreciate the support of retired royal couple, Emperor Emeritus Akihito and Empress Emerita Michiko, for the strong friendship between the two countries, including their historic state visit to Singapore in 2006 to commemorate 40 years of diplomatic ties.

"It is true the emperor is seen to be like a god, but at the same time, you felt that you were close to him", Rikia Iwasaki, a 13-year-old schoolboy said outside the Imperial Palace. Naruhito's mother, Michiko, was born a commoner and was Catholic educated.

Japan was in a festive mood celebrating an imperial succession that occurred by retirement rather than by death. Palace watchers say he might focus on global issues, including disaster prevention, water conservation and climate change, which could appeal to younger Japanese. Together, they reached out to the people, especially those who faced disability, discrimination and natural disasters.

Akihito during his three-decade reign embraced an identity as peacemaker and often made reconciliatory missions and carefully scripted expressions of regret on the war.

Naruhito's brother Prince Fumihito will be next in line to the throne, followed by the new emperor's nephew, 12-year-old Prince Hisahito. The Imperial House Law confines the succession to male heirs, leaving Naruhito's daughter, Aiko, now 17, out of the running.

But the pomp and ceremony will wait until October 22 when he and Masako will appear in elaborate traditional robes for a ceremony in the palace before parading through the streets of the capital to be congratulated by a host of world leaders and royals. Though Masako struggled with a stress-related illness described by palace officials as an "adjustment disorder" that kept her largely out of the public eye for years, her public appearances have recently increased.

In an annual news conference marking his February 23 birthday, Naruhito said he was open to taking up a new role that "suits the times".