Photo/IllutrationThe “takamikura” throne-like structure, shown to reporters at the Kyoto Imperial Palace in April 2018, will be used in Emperor Naruhito’s enthronement ceremony in October. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

  • Photo/Illustraion

New Emperor Naruhito will stand on a throne-like platform that will place him higher than the heads of the legislative, executive and judicial branches at his enthronement ceremony, according to plans that some say violate the Constitution.

The ceremony organizing committee, headed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, on Sept. 18 approved details of the Oct. 22 event. The Cabinet is expected to soon give its official approval.

Although some scholars have voiced concerns about potential violations of stipulations in the Constitution on popular sovereignty and separating state and religion, the government decided to follow the process of the previous enthronement ceremony without reviewing protocol.

The enthronement ceremony, or Sokuirei-Seiden-no-gi, will be performed in the Matsu-no-Ma state room within the Imperial Palace in Tokyo starting at 1 p.m. on Oct. 22.

According to plans for the ceremony, Naruhito will stand on a “takamikura,” an elaborate throne-like structure. Imperial Regalia, including a sword and name seal, will be placed on a table called An.

New Empress Masako will rise to stand on a “michodai,” a structure similar to takamikura.

After the emperor’s speech, Abe will give a congratulatory address, followed by three “banzai” cheers by the prime minister and other representatives at the ceremony.

The difference in height between the takamikura pedestal and the state room floor is 1.3 meters. That means the people’s representatives will be looking up to the emperor during the enthronement ceremony.

“The takamikura and the Imperial Regalia are based on mythology, and they will be used to demonstrate the legitimacy of the emperor as a descendent of the gods,” said Koichi Yokota, professor emeritus of the Constitution at Kyushu University. “This violates Article 1 of the Constitution, which stipulates that the emperor derives his position from the will of the people.”

Yokota also noted that having the emperor stand at a higher position gives the impression that he precedes the public, a violation of the constitutional principle of popular sovereignty.

The government dismissed such criticism.

“To begin with, Sokuirei-Seiden-no-gi is not a ceremony that has a religious character,” Masaharu Kondo, director-general of the Cabinet Legislation Bureau, said at the Sept. 18 meeting. “The emperor giving a speech from takamikura, which has traditionally and historically been used at ceremonies for imperial succession and passed on as imperial family-related ancient furniture, will pose no problems in relation to the Constitution.”

The government plans to install 30 large monitors at a venue within the Imperial Palace so that attendees of the ceremony can view the emperor.

The ceremony organizing committee also designated Oct. 26 as the alternate date for the imperial procession should rain hamper the original plan.

The parade with Naruhito and Masako in a convertible is scheduled to start at 3:30 p.m. on Oct. 22 after the enthronement ceremony.

The couple will leave the Imperial Palace for the Akasaka Imperial Residence, where the emperor and empress reside, via the front gate of the Diet building and Aoyama-dori street.

The 4.6-kilometer procession is expected to take about 30 minutes.

A decision on whether to go ahead with the procession as scheduled will be made at 6:30 p.m. on Oct. 21.

If the parade is delayed to Oct. 26, and it rains heavily on that day, the procession will be canceled.

The committee will consider using a regular car instead of a convertible for the procession if the forecast calls for light drizzle.

The special convertible for the occasion was built by Toyota Motor Corp. and will be delivered to the Cabinet Office by the end of this month.

The automaker’s high-end Century, fully remodeled in 2018, was turned into the convertible measuring 5.34 meters long and 1.93 meters wide.

The custom-ordered car was produced in a way to allow the public on the streets to have a better view of the emperor and empress, according to the government.

The Century convertible is slightly larger than a Rolls-Royce Corniche III convertible, which was used by Naruhito’s parents, Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko, in their procession in November 1990.

The Century convertible is equipped with crash avoidance technology, automatic braking system and side air bags for the rear seats.