Naruhito faces the delicate balancing act of continuing his father's legacy of bringing the monarchy closer to the people while upholding the centuries-old traditions of the Chrysanthemum Throne. [Japan Pool/Reuters]
Naruhito faces the delicate balancing act of continuing his father's legacy of bringing the monarchy closer to the people while upholding the centuries-old traditions of the Chrysanthemum Throne. [Japan Pool/Reuters]

Emperor Naruhito’s reign began Wednesday as he ascended the Chrysanthemum Throne marking the beginning of a new imperial era in Japan.

Emperor Naruhito, 59, following the abdication of his father Emperor Akihito the previous day, has become Japan’s 126th emperor, according to the traditional order of succession.New era greetings were shared between friends and families on the telephone, by text and on social media platforms, with large numbers of youngsters posting pictures of themselves when they were young children in the Heisei Era, along with their messages of hope for the future of Japan and the world. The younger generations on the most popular social networking sites were enthused by the new Reiwa Era, and many of them made individual pledges as to what they would like to achieve in the future, with many of the dreams centered around peace and prosperity.

Former Emperor Akihito in his final speech as a monarch before stepping down at midnight on Tuesday declared his abdication and in doing so said he sincerely hopes for a stable future for Japan and peace and happiness around the world.Former Emperor Akihito’s abdication marked the end of the three-decade long Heisei Era and the first time a live monarch here has left the Chrysanthemum Throne in more than 200 years. Many Japanese stayed up until midnight to usher in the new Reiwa Era, with large screens up and down the country near commuter hubs and in bustling shopping districts wishing everyone a Happy New Reiwa Era. A number of individuals, towns, cities and prefectures celebrated in different ways across Japan, with fireworks shows, couples taking their wedding vows, naming their children at midnight, and drinking special sake.

Era names, or “gengo” as they are known in Japanese, are used in Japan for the length of a monarch’s reign.The new era name, “Reiwa,” meaning “beautiful harmony,” was announced by the government on April 1. New era names are usually announced after the accession of the new monarch, but the government decided to announce the new name in advance of the accession of the new emperor. In this way, companies and the general public had time to prepare for the change and disruption would be kept to a minimum. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the time said that the government wanted to select a name that conveys the heralding of a “new era full of hope.”

The Japanese premier said the new era name was decided upon as it connotes “people’s hearts coming together beautifully to nurture a culture.” “The name Reiwa means that culture is born and grows when people come together and care for each other beautifully,” Abe said. He also said he hoped the new era ahead would be one that held great promise for the younger generations. “Heisei,” the name of the previous era, means “achieving peace” and began on Jan. 8, 1989, the day after Emperor Hirohito died. To add to the nation’s fervor and excitement, this year’s Golden Week has been extended to 10 days with one day allocated to observe former Emperor Akihito’s abdication and another to the recent enthronement of Emperor Naruhito and the related ceremonies Wednesday.

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