Japan’s Emperor, Naruhito, has given his first address after ascending the throne, expressing his hope for happiness and world peace.
His ascension was formalised earlier on Wednesday in a ceremony that saw him inherit the Imperial Treasures.
A new imperial era called Reiwa – which means order and harmony – has begun and will last throughout his reign.
His 85-year-old father, Akihito, became the first emperor to abdicate in more than 200 years on Tuesday.
In a short speech at the Imperial Palace, Emperor Naruhito said he hoped “for the happiness of the people… progress of the country, and world peace”.
Naruhito, 59, also expressed gratitude towards his father Emperor Emeritus Akihito, his voice breaking when he talked about Akihito’s service to his country.
“[He] performed each of his duties in earnest for more than 30 years,” he said. “He showed profound compassion through his own bearing. I would like to express my heartfelt respect and appreciation.”
Naruhito, became emperor at midnight on Tuesday when the new era began in Japan, but he then took part in a ceremony that formalises his ascension to the Chrysanthemum throne.
The Kenji-to-Shokei-no-gi – or Ceremony for Inheriting the Imperial Regalia and Seals began at 10:15 local time on Wednesday. Female royals are not allowed to be there so Empress Masako, Emperor Naruhito’s wife, was not present.
Naruhito symbolically received two objects – a sword and a gem – which are passed down through generations of emperors and are seen as the symbols of imperial power.
There is one additional object, a mirror, and together the three make up the Imperial Treasures or Regalia. However, the mirror – considered the most precious of the treasures – which is believed to be kept at the Ise Grand Shrine in Mie prefecture, never leaves its resting place.
Female royals were allowed to attend the second part of the ceremony, where the emperor gave his first audience after ascending the throne.
Naruhito, born in 1960, is a graduate of Oxford University. He became crown prince at the age of 28.
In 1986, he reportedly met his wife, now Empress Masako Owada, at a tea party. They married in 1993.
Japan’s monarchy the oldest continuing hereditary monarchy in the world. Legends date it back to about 600 BC.
In fact, Japanese emperors used to be seen as gods, but the country’s wartime emperor Hirohito – Naruhito’s grandfather – publicly renounced his divinity at the end of World War Two, as part of Japan’s surrender.