Japan’s new Emperor Naruhito ascended the Chrysanthemum throne on May 1 becoming the country’s 126th Emperor. His father, 85-year-old Emperor Akihito became the first monarch in 200 years to abdicate after having reigned for 30 years.
Considered the oldest monarchy in the world, the imperial line of Japan stretches back 14 centuries. Once considered ‘the living embodiment of Gods’, the emperor has become a largely symbolic figure and wields no political power over Japan. While the role is chiefly ceremonial, the departing emperor acted as the nation’s chief consoler during times of disaster, such as the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, and sought to make amends throughout Asia for Japan’s wartime atrocities.
Japan’s current laws prohibit women from inheriting and also cannot attend ascension ceremonies. Women born into the royal family must renounce their imperial titles and officially leave the family once they marry
Naruhito, 59, takes the throne at a time when Japan faces numerous challenges, including a low birth rate and a declining, ageing population. The country is making efforts to open the country to foreign workers, change the country’s brutal, entrenched work culture and reduce gender inequality.