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.
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.
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.
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.