Japan Emperor, Empress Attend New Year’s Ceremony

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
Nijubashi Bridge at the Imperial Palace

Tokyo (Jiji Press)—Japanese Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako on Monday attended a New Year’s ceremony at the Imperial Palace, also participated by other Imperial Family members and dignitaries from both at home and abroad.

Female members of the Imperial Family wore tiaras for the first time in four years.

In the morning, Imperial Family members, including Crown Prince Akishino and Crown Princess Kiko, celebrated the arrival of the new year in greetings to the Emperor and the Empress, followed by similar remarks by government, parliamentary and judicial leaders, and cabinet ministers from Japan.

“I am really happy to be able to celebrate the new year with you. At the beginning of the new year, I pray for the happiness of the people and the development of the country,” the Emperor said.

The president of the House of Councillors, the upper chamber of parliament, was absent due to a health issue.

In the afternoon, foreign ambassadors to Japan and other officials from abroad made congratulatory remarks to the Imperial couple.

Female members of the Imperial Family had refrained from wearing tiaras at the New Year’s ceremony since 2021, at the request of Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako in light of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The use of tiaras restarted at the 2024 ceremony as many people in the nation are returning to their normal lives following the downgrade of COVID-19 to a lower category under the infectious disease control law in May 2023.

Princess Aiko, the only child of Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako, wore a tiara at the New Year’s ceremony for the first time.

The tiara she used was borrowed from her aunt, Sayako Kuroda, the third and youngest child of Emperor Emeritus Akihito and Empress Emerita Michiko, and now a commoner.

The number of participants in the 2024 ceremony totaled about 370, far more than the previous year, because the spouses of Japanese cabinet ministers and lawmakers, and of foreign dignitaries including ambassadors to Japan were allowed to join.

Meanwhile, Tuesday’s events in which Emperor Naruhito, Empress Masako and other Imperial Family members would greet members of the public at the palace in Tokyo’s Chiyoda Ward have been canceled following a powerful earthquake that mainly struck Ishikawa Prefecture, central Japan, on Monday. The quake measured up to 7, the highest level on Japan’s seismic intensity scale.