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New emperor ascends to throne in Japan

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Crown Prince Naruhito, known as an earnest man with a passion for water conservation, is poised to become Japan’s next emperor, a day after his father gave up the throne in the country’s first abdication in two centuries.

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Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko stepped down on Tuesday after three decades as the nation’s top royals in a brief, simple ceremony, with Akihito thanking the people of Japan and saying he prayed for peace.

Though Naruhito, 59, technically succeeded his father just as Tuesday became Wednesday, his ascension to the Chrysanthemum Throne will be formalised in a mid-morning ceremony.

Naruhito, the first emperor born after World War Two and the first to be raised solely by his parents, said on his birthday in February succeeding his father “makes me solemn”.

Given the backgrounds of Naruhito and his wife, Masako, a 55-year-old former diplomat – which include extended experience studying and living overseas – hopes are high they may be more international in their outlook and closer to the lives of many Japanese.

The last imperial succession in 1989 took place during mourning for Akihito’s father, Hirohito.

This time the mood is more festive. Japan has been draped in banners welcoming Reiwa – the name of the new era for Naruhito’s reign – during an unprecedented 10-day holiday.

Countdown events were held on Tuesday night.

-AAP

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