Photo/IllutrationPeople wait outside the Imperial Palace in Tokyo to take pictures of attendees to Naruhito’s enthronement ceremony on Oct. 22. (Satoru Iizuka)

  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion

Some guests at Emperor Naruhito’s enthronement ceremony appear to have taken his wish for world peace to heart.

Rinko Sagara, a 15-year-old high school student who attended the ceremony on Oct. 22, said she was impressed by the speech of Naruhito, who “always wishes for the happiness of the people and the peace of the world.”

The teenager said she felt his words showed that he is serious about his quest for peace.

Sagara was invited to the ceremony after the imperial family noted a poem she wrote and recited at last year’s memorial service for victims of the 1945 Battle of Okinawa.

Her poem, “To live,” recalls the life of her great-grandmother, who survived the carnage of the battle.

Naruhito’s father, Emperor Emeritus Akihito, has displayed a special regard for Okinawa and visited the southernmost prefecture many times.

“The new emperor’s words really showed his determination to carry on with his father’s way of thinking,” Sagara said.

Another guest, Setsuko Thurlow, a survivor of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, said the emperor should listen to what atomic bomb survivors have to say if his prayers for world peace are sincere.

The 87-year-old, who now lives in Canada, is a leading figure in the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons. The group was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2017.

Despite the rain on Oct. 22, which was made a national holiday, a large crowd of well-wishers assembled around the Imperial Palace in central Tokyo to celebrate the new emperor’s enthronement.

Among them were Minako Nagao, a 42-year-old resident of Kawasaki, and her son, Yunosuke, 9.

Nagao said one thing that stands out for her about Naruhito and his wife, Empress Masako, is that both studied overseas and have a wealth of international experience.

“I’d like them to visit lots of foreign countries and help establish good relationships with them,” she said.

Not everyone had high expectations for the Chrysanthemum Throne’s new occupant.

Yokohama resident Kazuo Kakuto said that although he was deeply touched by the dedication of Akihito and Empress Emerita Michiko to memorializing Japan’s war dead, he does not expect the new emperor and empress to do the same.

Akihito and Michiko visited numerous World War II battle sites in and out of Japan.

“Akihito has done enough to console the spirits of those who died in the war,” said Kakuto, 83, who experienced the war as a young boy in Kyoto. “I believe that each emperor has his own way of life.”

In Nagano, a city hard-hit by the deluge unleashed by Typhoon No. 19 earlier this month, Takashi Matsuzawa watched a live broadcast of the enthronement ceremony at a shelter.

“It’s disappointing,” the 80-year-old said, referring to the fact that he could not watch the rite at his home, which was flooded by the typhoon.

“We would have celebrated the occasion there together with some of our relatives,” he said. “But the damage was too great for us to do it.”

Kazuo Ono, 63, who was staying at a shelter in Marumori, Miyagi Prefecture, said he didn’t feel like watching the ceremony on the TVs set up in the elementary school gym.

Flooding killed 10 residents in Marumori.

Ono said his one-story house was buried in up to more than 1 meter of mud.

“I’d rather watch local news now,” the company employee said. “Maybe I should listen to the radio in my car.”