The following are questions and answers about a series of imperial succession rituals concerning the enthronement of Emperor Naruhito.
Q: What was the main ceremony Emperor Naruhito attended on the day of accession to the Chrysanthemum Throne?
A: It is called "Kenji to Shokei no gi," and is for him to inherit sacred objects as proof of his accession to the throne. The three regalia -- a sword, jewel and a mirror -- are called "Sanshu no Jingi" and are said to have been bestowed by Amaterasu Omikami, the mythical ancestral deity of the imperial family. In the ceremony he was presented with the sword and jewel.
Q: What kind of events will come next?
A: Major ceremonies are planned in the fall, such as the "Sokuirei Seiden no gi" for the new emperor to proclaim his enthronement in front of representatives from home and abroad, and "Daijosai," the most important imperial rite that comes along once in a lifetime for each emperor.
(Then Emperor Akihito's Sokuirei Seiden no gi is held in this file photo taken on Nov. 12, 1990.)
Q: When and where will Sokuirei Seiden no gi take place?
A: It is scheduled on Oct. 22, when a special throne for the emperor called Takamikura is placed inside the Imperial Palace. It is a 6.5-meter-high canopied structure weighing 8 tons, decorated with urushi lacquer work, mirrors and phoenix statues. The empress has a smaller throne called Michodai.
Q: How long has such a throne been used?
A: The practice of using Takamikura is believed to have existed since the eighth century. The current structure was made for the 1915 enthronement ceremony of Emperor Yoshihito (1879-1926), posthumously known as Emperor Taisho. It is usually kept in the Shishinden hall of Kyoto Imperial Palace, but was dismantled, loaded on to eight trucks and brought to Tokyo last September.
Q: How will the emperor be dressed, and how does the ceremony proceed?
A: There is a robe called "Korozen no goho," which emperors are only allowed to wear for important rituals, and which is known for its "Korozen" dye, often described as reddish yellow or yellowish brown. The emperor is expected to speak from the Takamikura's elevated dais, and will be congratulated by the Japanese prime minister. The emperor and empress will then set out for a parade in a convertible version of Toyota Motor Corp.'s Century luxury sedan.
(File photo taken on Nov. 22, 1990, shows then Emperor Akihito during Daijosai.)
Q: What about Daijosai?
A: Daijosai, or Great Thanksgiving Ceremony, dates back to the late seventh century. It is performed by the new emperor in the fall of the year of his formal enthronement, replacing the annual imperial harvest festival known as Niinamesai. Its main rite is called "Daijokyu no gi" and will be held on Nov. 14 and 15.
Q: What will the emperor do?
A: During the main rite at the Imperial Palace, the emperor will sit in the direction of Ise Jingu, a Shinto shrine in Mie Prefecture that is said to enshrine the Shinto sun goddess Amaterasu. He will offer newly harvested rice to imperial ancestors, and deities of heaven and earth. The emperor will also partake of the rice, and pray for peace and abundant harvests for the country and its people.
Q: What kind of preparation is needed for Daijosai?
A: On May 13, a ceremony will take place at the palace to choose where to raise the rice to be used in the rite, one rice field each from eastern and western Japan. The location will be decided through turtle-shell divination, originally from China, in which a diviner observes the cracks that show up on a heated shell.
(Supplied photo shows rice harvest ritual ahead of Daijosai in 1990.)
Q: Where will the turtle shell come from?
A: The Imperial Household Agency has prepared carapaces of eight green turtles from the Ogasawara island chain in the Pacific, about 1,000 kilometers south of Tokyo. For the divination conducted ahead of the previous Daijosai, in November 1990, turtle shells were shaped in a pentagonal form, 24 centimeters long, 15 cm wide and 2 millimeter thick.
Q: Are there any differences from previous succession ceremonies?
A: Not much in terms of procedure as the government has decided to broadly follow tradition. But the ceremonies will be simplified and less costly, partly due to the wishes of Emperor Naruhito and former Emperor Akihito to reduce the financial burden. Sokuirei Seiden no gi and Daijosai will be state financed.
Q: When will the series of ceremonies finish?
A: The specific date has yet to be determined. If procedures follow previous era changes, ceremonies for the emperor will be completed this year. Toward the year's end, the emperor is expected to visit Ise Jingu, mausoleums of late emperors, and his ancestors' shrine in the Imperial Palace. On April 19 next year, there will be ceremonies for Crown Prince Fumihito to proclaim that he has inherited the title.
(File photo of temporary halls for Daijosai in November 1990.)