Photo/IllutrationEmperor Akihito waves to well-wishers after he and Empress Michiko visited Ise Jingu shrine in Ise, Mie Prefecture, on April 18 to report his planned abdication to divine spirits. (Pool)

  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion

ISE, Mie Prefecture--Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko visited Ise Jingu shrine here on April 18 to inform Amaterasu-omikami, the legendary sun goddess, and another divine spirit of his planned abdication.

The imperial couple worshipped separately in accordance with tradition during the Jingu-Shinetsu-no-gi ceremony held to report the planned abdication to Toyoukeno-omikami, the guardian deity of food, clothing, housing and industry enshrined at Geku (outer shrine of Ise Jingu), and Amaterasu-omikami, enshrined at Naiku (inner shrine).

Akihito, wearing a swallow-tailed coat and carrying a top hat, first visited Geku. He was accompanied by Imperial Palace staff holding a sword and a “magatama” (comma-shaped beads), two of the three treasures that have been handed down through generations in the imperial family.

The emperor received a “tamagushi,” a sacred “sakaki” tree branch. He offered the branch at the shrine in front of the “seiden” main hall and offered a prayer, followed by the empress.

Akihito and Michiko visited Naiku in the afternoon and worshipped separately.

Crowds and well-wishers on the streets waved and cheered to welcome the imperial couple on their final official local trip before the emperor’s abdication on April 30.