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Japan's emperor, empress to parade in Tokyo to commemorate enthronement

TOKYO - Japan's Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako will parade on Sunday in a convertible sedan along a 4.6-kilometer route from the Imperial Palace to his residence in the Akasaka Estate to mark his enthronement.

The motorcade will start at 3 p.m. from the Imperial Palace. The event was originally scheduled for Oct. 22 following an enthronement ceremony, equivalent to a coronation, but was pushed back in the wake of a deadly typhoon that devastated vast areas of Japan earlier last month.

In the "Sokuirei Seiden no gi" ceremony, the emperor proclaimed his ascension to the Chrysanthemum Throne before about 2,000 guests, including some 420 dignitaries from about 190 countries and international organizations.

The parade by his father, former Emperor Akihito, in November 1990 following his enthronement ritual drew about 120,000 roadside spectators, while some 190,000 people observed a parade by then Crown Prince Naruhito and Crown Princess Masako to celebrate their wedding in 1993.

The procession will pass by the Metropolitan Police Department and the main gate of the Diet building before arriving at the Akasaka Imperial Residence. The parade is expected to last about 30 minutes.

Crown Prince Fumihito -- the younger brother of the emperor -- Crown Princess Kiko and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will also join the motorcade.

The route was chosen for visibility and security reasons, with fewer sections under overpasses compared with the former emperor's parade.

The emperor and the empress will be riding a Toyota Motor Corp. Century convertible, which was picked from a pool of cars from five automakers, taking safety and environmental performance into consideration among other features, according to the Imperial Household Agency.

The convertible sedan has white leather seats and headrests designed so as not to obstruct the view of roadside spectators during the parade.

The black vehicle sporting the imperial chrysanthemum crest, including remodeling expenses, is estimated to have cost around 80 million yen ($750,000), according to the agency.

A Rolls-Royce convertible was used during the parade following Emperor Akihito's ascension ceremony, but it was scrapped after being used for the 1993 parade celebrating the current emperor's wedding.

Following criticism that the use of the Rolls-Royce convertible only twice was "a waste of money," the government is considering reusing the Toyota Century during the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics next year.

Emperor Naruhito ascended the throne on May 1 after his 85-year-old father abdicated the previous day -- the country's first monarch to step down in about two centuries.

(Parade rehearsal)