Rabat – Japan’s new emperor, Naruhito, has ascended to the Chrysanthemum Throne, replacing his father, Akihito, who abdicated the day before his son’s inauguration.
Naruhito is joining an imperial line that stretches back 14 centuries.
During a ritualized ceremony in the Imperial Palace in Tokyo, a predominantly male audience witnessed Naruhito, 59, take possession of royal regalia and seals, including a sacred sword that provides ceremonial proof of his ascension.
In keeping with Japanese tradition, only male imperial family members were allowed to attend the centuries-old ceremony, but Japan’s lone female cabinet member, Satsuki Katayama, was in attendance.
The abdication of now-Emperor Emeritus Akihito was the first in more than 200 years, since Emperor Kokaku stepped down in 1817.
During the abdication ceremony on Tuesday, April 30, Akihito, speaking in a rare live television appearance, said he had performed his duties as emperor with a “deep sense of trust and respect” for the Japanese people.
“I consider myself most fortunate to have been able to do so,” Akihito said. “I sincerely wish, together with the Empress, that the Reiwa era, which begins tomorrow, will be a stable and fruitful one.”
The next day, Naruhito addressed the nation for the first time as emperor.
After paying respects to his father’s reign and swearing to accord by the Constitution, Naruhito said, “I sincerely pray for the happiness of the people and the further development of the nation as well as the peace of the world.”
Each new emperor’s reign is marked by an era name. Naruhito’s emperorship will be known as the “Reiwa Era,” a name adapted from an 8th-century anthology of classic poetry. The official government translation of “Reiwa” is “beautiful harmony.”
Monarch to monarch
Rabat and Tokyo have enjoyed friendly political and economic relations throughout the reigns of Emperor Emeritus Akihito and King Mohammed VI.
Morocco is considered to be Japan’s second largest business partner in Africa, after South Africa, with a total of 64 Japanese companies operating in the kingdom.
The number, which has quintupled in the last decade, constitutes more than 60% of the total number of Japanese companies in Morocco, Tunisia, and Algeria.
Last December, Japanese foreign minister Mitsuko Shino spoke at a press briefing in Rabat, pointing out that the companies employ approximately 40,000 people in a range of different sectors including the car industry, fiber optics, travel, and medical equipment.
The two countries also enjoy good trade relations. In 2017, Morocco’s exports to Japan amounted to $304.7 million and their imports from totaled $248.5 million.
At the same December meeting, Shino said the number of Japanese tourists coming to Morocco has increased since 2011. He noted that, annually, between 32,000 and 35,000 Japanese tourists have visited Morocco in the last seven years.
According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, as of October 2017 there were 362 Japanese nationals residing in Morocco. Meanwhile, a June 2018 census indicated that there were 601 Moroccan nationals residing in Japan.
The relationship between the two countries began in 1956 with Japan’s recognition of Morocco’s independence, following the end of France’s colonial rule. In 1961, Japan opened its embassy in Rabat. Four years later, Moroccan inaugurated its embassy in Tokyo.