Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako wave to well-wishers during an enthronement parade in Tokyo on Nov. 10. (The Asahi Shimbun)

For those who got through the crowds and security, the view of the shiny black motorcade carrying the imperial couple along the route to commemorate Emperor Naruhito's enthronement was worth it.

But many people in central Tokyo with other plans found themselves swept up in the chaos, and some merchants discovered their stores were cut off from customers by security measures on the afternoon of Nov. 10.

About 119,000 people filled the side streets of the parade route to commemorate Naruhito's enthronement, exceeding the crowd for a parade thrown for his father's enthronement in 1990.

The well-wishers waved small national flags and shouted congratulatory remarks at Naruhito and Empress Masako, who occasionally looked teary-eyed in the convertible.

Kazuo Suzuki, 35, came all the way from Kobe to see the parade and spent the previous night at a manga cafe in Tokyo. He snagged a prime spot near the main gate of the Imperial Palace at 4 a.m.

“This is a big event going down in history,” he said. “I wanted to feel the beginning of the Reiwa Era myself.”

Spectators were gathered over 10 rows deep at the Iwaidabashi Crossing that faces the Imperial Moat in the capital’s Chiyoda Ward.

An 80-year-old woman who came from Saitama Prefecture was among them. She said she had witnessed three imperial parades including the one to celebrate the wedding of Naruhito and Masako in 1993.

“I'm so happy to see Masako doing an excellent job and participating actively after she went through so much difficulty,” she said. “I came today because I wanted to wish her the best.”

Parade watchers had to endure nerve-testing waits to have their bags checked at security points. For many, it was nearly impossible to locate the end of the line. And for those who required a restroom, there were several hundreds of people in line for the portable toilets.

“Security is so tight that I don’t know how to get to the nearest station,” said an 81-year-old resident of Tsurugashima, Saitama Prefecture, who abandoned his plan to spend the day near the parade route, trying to get out of the area to go home.

In anticipation of a hungry parade crowd, the owner of a convenience store near the Hirakawa-cho Crossing had stocked shelves with bento boxes and onigiri rice balls almost twice the number as the regular stock.

However, after police drew lines to restrict pedestrian traffic in the area, the number of shoppers fell drastically.

“A lot of the food will probably be thrown away,” the disappointed male owner, 61, said, giving a grim smile. “But I have no choice because this is a celebratory occasion.”

Toyokawa Inari temple located along the parade route in Minato Ward decided to close its entrance gate to avoid heavy congestion on the day.

Etsuko Giga, 92, the owner of Kikuya cafe, which lies inside the temple premises, had prepared about 500 bags of commemorative rice crackers to sell at the store. But the shutdown made it impossible for her to sell them.

“I was hoping to celebrate the occasion with customers. But I have no choice because it is important to prevent anything from happening because of the chaos,” Giga said.

Koichi Ito, 83, and his wife, Yoshiko, 76, from Yachiyo, Chiba Prefecture, watched the parade from near the National Diet building.

The couple are veteran parade-goers, and attended the ones for the enthronement of Emperor Emeritus Akihito, which marked the start of the Heisei Era, and for Naruhito and Masako's wedding.

But this time, they only caught a glimpse of the faces of Naruhito and Masako when the motorcade passed five or six meters in front of them.

Ito said it took about an hour and a half for the couple to get through the security line to have their bags checked. He said repeated detailed warning announcements from police officers made them feel the security was much heavier than at previous parades.

“I wish we could have celebrated in a much more relaxed mood,” Ito said.

A group of 47, which included kids and octogenarians, booked a lunch at Meiji Kinenkan, located in front of the Akasaka Imperial Residence, where the parade route ended.

The lunch, organized by tour company Club Tourism International, had been postponed as the parade was rescheduled from Oct. 22 due to Typhoon No. 19.

The lunch went on as planned, but the group was deprived of a view of the parade route as dining rooms facing the route were ordered to shut their curtains for security reasons.

A 66-year-old woman from Akashi, Hyogo Prefecture, was part of the tour with her 10-year-old grandchild who lives in Tokyo.

She and her family members joined a line to get to a security checkpoint at about 1 p.m. They were still a few meters from it when entry to the area for spectators was cut off, with the parade about to start.

Despite their efforts to navigate through the crowds, they ended up seeing only a view of the backs of security guards.

“What a bummer,” the woman said. “I didn't expect that many people to be here.”

At the end of the day, though, joy seemed to override the pandemonium for most of the well-wishers at the event.

“I could at least experience the solemn atmosphere,” the woman said.