Kyoto – The canopied Takamikura imperial throne in which the emperor proclaimed his enthronement last October was put on public display at Kyoto Imperial Palace on Saturday. The Imperial Household Agency will be showing the throne until Aug. 27 and will limit viewing to 5,000 people a day to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Before opening hours on Saturday, about 100 people had lined up. It was initially scheduled to be on public display on March 1, but this was put off due to the outbreak of the virus. Emperor Naruhito officially proclaimed his enthronement on Oct. 22 from the 6.5-meter-high canopied Takamikura imperial throne in the Sokuirei Seiden no gi, a solemn ceremony at the Imperial Palace featuring elements of ancient protocol.
The Katsura Imperial Villa, or Katsura-Rikyu, located in Kyoto and originally built as a holiday home for the Imperial family, will welcome more visitors from Nov. 1 at a charge of ¥1,000 for those aged 18 or older, the Imperial Household Agency said Tuesday. The maximum number of visitors will be raised to 480 -- more than double the current limit of 210. The number of one-hour tours conducted each day will increase fourfold from six to 24, with five being given in English. Currently, only those aged 18 or older can enter the villa, which was constructed in the 17th century and well-known for its beautiful Japanese garden. But from November, the age threshold will be lowered to 12. To cover expenses for the expanded operations, the agency will collect admission fees for the first time at properties it manages.
Japan is moving to adopt a law allowing its octogenarian Emperor Akihito to abdicate but many touchy topics, such as his title and duties, remain to be settled before the monarch can retire in a step unprecedented for two centuries. Japanese law does not allow an emperor to give up the throne, but Akihito, 83, who has had heart surgery and prostate cancer treatment, said in rare public remarks last August he feared age might make it hard to fulfill his duties. A panel of experts is expected on Monday to indicate a preference for a special law to allow Emperor Akihito to retire, most probably by the end of 2018. Officials are looking at ancient precedents, since the last time an emperor abdicated was in 1817. "Japan is in uncharted territory except for historians," said Colin Jones, a professor at Doshisha University Law School.
Defense Minister Taro Kono on Tuesday warned of risks about keeping the current imperial succession system in place that allows only male descendants in the family's paternal line to ascend to the throne. Speaking at a news conference, Kono said it would be "extremely risky" for the current imperial family to maintain the male-line succession system. He indicated that national debate should be initiated immediately on possible ways to ensure stable imperial succession, including allowing female emperors or emperors from the maternal bloodline and restoring the imperial family status to those who left the family soon after the end of World War II. "Maintaining the male-line imperial succession system is the most desirable option," Kono said. The minister, however, said that the country should also consider an option of allowing female members to remain in the imperial family after marriage as heads of family branches and have their children ascend to the throne, or possibly reinstate former male imperial family members or have them ascend to the throne through adoption.
The Imperial Household Agency started offering a multilingual tourist guide using a smartphone application Tuesday in a bid to attract more foreign visitors to places with Imperial connections. The new service, called Imperial Palaces Guide, provides Apple iOS users with detailed information in English, Chinese, Korean, French, Spanish and Japanese on various spots open to the public for viewing at such facilities as the Imperial Palace in Tokyo and the Kyoto Imperial Palace. The Android-based version of the app will be available soon, the agency said. The move is in line with a government effort to promote tourism -- with the goal of attracting 40 million visitors in 2020 when the country hosts the Tokyo Olympics. The agency began developing the app in May last year with a ¥10 million ($88,000) budget to cope with an increase in the number of foreign visitors from diverse origins, meaning the use of English-only audio guidance devices for rent had become insufficient.