Japan’s imperial couple greeted by thousands during Tokyo parade

Japan’s newly crowned emperor and empress were cheered by tens of thousands of spectators during an imperial parade through the heart of Tokyo Sunday.

Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako waved to the crowds from the back of their open-top Toyota Century limousine during the 30-minute parade.

The imperial couple’s car was part of a 400-meter long motorcade consisting of 46 vehicles, which carried a number of dignitaries including Crown Prince Akishino, Crown Princess Kiko and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

The parade was originally due to take place on October 22, the same day as the official enthronement ceremony which was attended by dignitaries and royalty from around 190 countries.

The event nevertheless had to be postponed as Japan grappled with the aftermath of Typhoon Hagibis, which left nearly 90 people dead.

The Japanese government estimated that 119,000 people attended the parade Sunday which stretched 2.6 miles, according to the public broadcaster NHK. Spectators stood rows deep and waved Japanese flags as they watched the parade progress along the streets of the capital.

“To witness this historical moment with my own eyes and to see the smile of the emperor and empress. I wanted to be in the front,” Hiyori Okazaki, a spectator, told Reuters. “I couldn’t wait so came last night.”

Toshiko Ito, who visited the capital with her husband, added: “Emotion welled up and I was so happy that I was about to cry.”

Emperor Naruhito wore a tailcoat during the parade, while Empress Masako donned a white dress and tiara, which glistened in the sunlight.

The parade is one of the final official events marking Emperor Naruhito’s accession to throne, which officially took place in May after his father, Emperor Akihito, abdicated following three decades at the helm. He became the first Japanese monarch to abdicate in two centuries.

Emperor Naruhito’s official enthronement ceremony took place in October, in a centuries-old ceremony at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo.

In an elaborate series of rituals known as “Sokui no Rei,” purple curtains were pulled back to reveal Naruhito and his wife sitting on two ornately decorated thrones.

Emperor Naruhito wore a rust-colored robe for the ceremony, while Empress Masako wore a patterned white rob and traditional hairstyle with a gilded headpiece.

At the ceremony, Emperor Naruhito proclaimed his enthronement before an audience of the imperial family and international dignitaries.

“I pledge hereby that I shall act according to the Constitution and fulfill my responsibility as the symbol of the State and of the unity of the people of Japan, while always wishing for the happiness of the people and the peace of the world, turning my thoughts to the people and standing by them,” Naruhito said.

“I sincerely hope that our country, through our people’s wisdom and unceasing efforts, achieves further development and contributes to the friendship and peace of the international community and the welfare and prosperity of humankind.”

High-profile guests to attend the ceremony included Britain’s Prince Charles and the Kings and Queens of Spain, the Netherlands and Belgium.

In total, around 16.1 billion yen ($147 million) has been set aside for ceremonies to celebrate the accession of Emperor Naruhito throughout the year.