At 9:00 a.m. on Tuesday, the Tokyo Station was packed with crowds of citizens, who braved the rain to commemorate the last day of the three-decade-long Heisei era by taking photographs of Emperor Akihito’s residence. Most citizens exited via the station’s west entrance and headed the Imperial Palace, which is the primary residence of the emperor.
At around 9:40 a.m., a black vehicle that carries Crown Prince Naruhito appeared, and citizens welcomed it with cheers, waving their hands. Crown Prince Naruhito rolled down a window, and waved back at the crowds.
Japan’s public broadcasting organization NHK on Tuesday aired special programs about the Heisei reign all day long, and announcers informed viewers of the minutes left till the termination of the Heisei era. In the evening, Shibuya was jam-packed with people who flocked to count down the final minutes of the old era. “Three, two, one, Omedetou Reiwa (Congratulations, Reiwa)!”
Meanwhile, Emperor Akhito’s abdication ceremony was held in the Imperial Palace in a solemn atmosphere. The outgoing emperor’s relinquishment of the throne started at 10:00 a.m. with his visits to the three shrines within the palace. Crown Prince Naruhito and other imperial family members also took part in the ceremonies at the three sanctuaries.
The official abdication ceremony was held in a state room of the Imperial Palace at 5:00 p.m. in front of around 300 people including Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and government officials. Abe thanked the outgoing emperor on behalf of the Japanese people, and Emperor Akihito delivered his last public duty by giving a speech. Having abdicated the throne, he will live in an imperial family residence near Akasaka, Tokyo.
Crown Prince Naruhito ascended the throne at the 12:00 a.m., Wednesday, to become Japan’s 126th emperor. There were voices within the government calling for the enthronement ceremony to be held at midnight, but Japan decided to hold the ceremony at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday for the convenience of the people. Crown Prince Naruhito’s accession to the throne will start with a ceremony to receive Japan’s three sacred treasures - a sword, a mirror, and a jewel. The ceremony can be participated only by men of the imperial family, having caused a controversy over women’s exclusion.
New emperor Naruhito will take part in another ceremony at 11:10 a.m. in the same place to meet with prime minister, government officials and heads of regional organizations for the first time. He will deliver his first speech as emperor during this ceremony.