Japan rings in new era as Naruhito becomes emperor

Japan, 1st May 2019

A new era has begun in Japan after Naruhito officially became the country's emperor at the stroke of midnight on Wednesday, taking over as head of the world's oldest monarchy following his father's historic abdication.

The new imperial era of "Reiwa", meaning "beautiful harmony", will endure as long as the 59-year-old Naruhito sits on the Chrysanthemum Throne and follows the era of "Heisei", meaning "achieving peace".

Naruhito will formally take possession of the sacred imperial regalia and imperial seals as proof of his succession as the nation's 126th emperor at a solemn ceremony later on Wednesday. While Japanese emperors hold no official political power, they serve as important national figureheads.

Japan's annual spring holiday, known as the Golden Week break, has been extended to a record 10 days to mark the occasion.

His father, the popular 85-year-old Akihito, used his final royal speech on Tuesday to offer his "heartfelt gratitude to the people of Japan" and pray for global peace as the curtain came down on his 30-year reign.

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