Emperor’s Final Ceremony At Three Palace Sanctuaries

After thirty years on the Chrysanthem Throne, Emperor Akihito’s reign came to a peaceful close today with a series of ceremonies. The day began with the Emperor paying respects at the Three Palace Sanctuaries at the Imperial Palace grounds in Tokyo. The shrine is the sanctuary of Amaterasu-omikami, the legendary sun goddess from whom the imperial line is said to have descended.

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For this “Taiirei-Tojitsu-Kashikodokoro-Omae-no-gi” ceremony, Emperor Akihito was dressed in the traditional “sokutai” outfit that only Imperial royals may wear. The sokutai centers around a voluminous draped outer robe with long, wide sleeves and a cinched waist; only the emperor may wear brown while other royals wear other colours, depending on their title. The robe often includes bird motifs (birds were considered divine envoys in ancient times) and the silk of the emperor’s robe is woven with a mythological Chinese phoenix to symbolize the arrival of peace.

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Topping the sokutai is the black “kanmuri” hat which consists of a flat, pillbox-like base and a towering, monochrome patterned tail at the back. For the ceremony, the emperor and other male royals carry a “shaku”- narrow, embellished wooden plate-like scepter.

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In this ceremony, Emperor Akihito read the “otsugebumi,” an explanation, that he would be taking part in a an abdication ceremony to pass the Chrysanthemum Throne to his eldest son, Crown Prince Naruhito. Akihito also read out the document at two other sanctuaries on the Imperial Palace grounds that honor past emperors and other Shinto gods.

Japanese media reported that that ten other imperial family members also donned traditional dress for this ceremony at the three sanctuaries. Photographs of this are not publicly available, although there are shots of the Akishino family arriving at the Imperial Palace. Princess Kiko, Princess Mako and Princess Kako all wore ivory silk covered bumper hats.

Special thanks to Prisma for sharing resources (including this article) explaining today’s traditional clothing.

Photos from Getty as indicated; The Asahi Shimbun and Kyodo News via Getty

6 thoughts on “Emperor’s Final Ceremony At Three Palace Sanctuaries

  1. Emperor Akihito (although now Emperor Emeritus) looked fantastic in the traditional sokutai robes and kanmuri hat. Apparently the same terms refer to the Emperor’s outfit worn during his marriage to Empress Michiko:
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    I’ll admit I’m remain rather ignorant of the details of these outfits (I wonder if there is a particular reason for the difference in the hat height), but I greatly admire their beauty!

    Many thanks to Prisma and HatQueen for helping bring us the proper information about these events. Truly a momentous time for Japan!

  2. Hat Queen: Thank you for the very interesting post, as well as the links where more information can be found. The traditional Japanese culture is so beautiful with its ceremonial rites and symbolism. The visible signs of tranquility, inner peace and contentment (through contemplation and self discipline) are so rarely enjoyed in our Western world today.
    Hats: The Emperor’s hat was interesting to say the least, with the extended tail. The princesses’ hats were typically underwhelming in color and shape. I hope we will get a chance to see the Empress’s selection for today.

    • According to this very interesting documentary, Emperor Akihito first mentioned his intent to abdicate to the Imperial Household Agency in 2011. He was met by much resistance but held firm and, eventually the 1947 Imperial Household Law was changed to allow for the abdication. I imagine for he and the Empress, today is a day of mixed emotions but it is there wishes that have driven this so there must be some relief and happiness as well.

  3. What a stunning ceremony. The Emperor and Empress have been such gracious representatives of Japan, showing such compassion and kindness. I wish them a lovely retirement. Thank you for sharing these photos Hat Queen and Prisma.

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