Photo/IllutrationPrime Minister Shinzo Abe, second from right, speaks at a panel meeting on preparations for Crown Prince Naruhito's enthronement as well as Emperor Akihito’s abdication, at the prime minister's office in Tokyo, on Nov. 20. (Takeshi Iwashita)

  • Photo/Illustraion

Formal celebrations next year for the enthronement of Crown Prince Naruhito will be scaled down to reduce the burden on the new emperor and empress and in keeping with the times, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on Nov. 20.

About 2,600 guests will be invited to a series of "kyoen no gi" palace banquets to celebrate the enthronement, down about 800 from the previous banquets for Emperor Akihito, with the number of banquets reduced from seven to four. Abe disclosed the details at the prime minister's office in Tokyo at the second meeting of a panel to discuss the ceremony.

The ceremony for the new emperor is scheduled to be held on Oct. 22, 2019, nearly five months after he ascends the Chrysanthemum Throne on May 1, 2019, a day after Akihito’s scheduled abdication.

The “sokuirei seiden no gi” (ceremony of enthronement) is an occasion to proclaim the enthronement of Naruhito, Emperor Akihito’s eldest son, and with attendance of representatives at home and abroad.

The palace banquets will be held on the same day or later.

About 2,500 guests, including overseas heads of states, heads of the three branches of government power, Diet members, local government heads and others, were invited to the enthronement ceremony for Emperor Akihito in 1990.

With about 900 additional guests, a total of 3,400 guests were invited for the banquets for him held seven times over four days.

The government initially planned to reduce the number of invitations to both events, but later learned that guests are expected from 195 countries Japan has diplomatic relations, 30 more than the previous ceremony.

It also “could not ignore local government heads’ hoping to participate in the ceremony,” according to a senior official of the prime minister's office.

The government thus abandoned its plan to reduce the number of guests to the enthronement ceremony, but, in principle, will have guests not be joined by their spouses except in cases of diplomatic protocol.

In addition to the 2,500 guests to the ceremony, about 100 will be asked to attend only the banquets, down from about 900 from the previous such banquets.

The total number of banquets was reduced to four by introducing standing dining at some of the banquets to increase the number of attendants at each banquet.

Aiming to reduce the burden on the new emperor and empress, the ceremony will be held once on the designated days, instead of twice.

There will also be a break between banquets on Oct. 22, 25, 29, and 31, whereas they were held days in a row on the previous occasion.

Ahead of the “shukuga onretsu no gi,” a parade for people in Japan to see the new emperor and express their good wishes, the government decided to purchase a made-in-Japan convertible.

It had considered using a British luxury Rolls-Royce, which was used for the previous parade, after tuning up the vehicle, but decided to buy a new one with the aim of using it also in the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games.