Japanese students say they are optimistic about their country’s new emperor
Written by
Kimo Burgess
Japan's Emperor Naruhito, center, leaves the stateroom at the end of the enthronement ceremony
Image By
The Associated Press

The Honolulu Civil Beat reported Japan’s new emperor Naruhito became enthroned on Oct. 22 and BYU–Hawaii students from Japan shared their opinions about their nation’s new monarch.

According to Kato Hironori, a senior from Japan majoring in information systems, Japan is following the modern way of a monarchial system. Previously, the emperor had an obligation to remain as the emperor. There was no option for retirement, it was a duty forever in their life. Japan now wants to become more flexible.

He said, “The government changed the law and Joko [emperor emeritus] can choose continuing [to be the emperor] or retire.”

According to Hironori, the emperor is the symbol of the nation and he fulfills his responsibilities such as meeting other world leaders and encouraging the Japanese people in times of trouble or tragedy.

This is the first time in Japan’s history an emperor had abdicated, as Hironori described. Previous emperors waited until their death for their heir(s) to become the next reigning emperor. 

Japan’s previous emperor, Akihito, abdicated on April 30, 2019, according to the Imperial Household Agency.

According to the agency, Emperor Naruhito is the “eldest son of His Majesty the Emperor Emeritus [Akihito].” He was born on Feb. 23, 1960 and ascended to the throne on May 1, 2019 and is Japan’s 126th emperor. 


A new start in Japan

The enthronement ceremony is an old Japanese tradition, according to Ryohei Sato, a senior from Japan majoring in computer science. He said, “This ceremony is maybe the only one in Japan that keeps traditions of [the] olden days.

“There are generally 13 steps in this ceremony, each step shows the hierarchy of family members of the emperor, and how [the] emperor trusts the prime minister.” 

Although the ceremony is based on the traditional and historical side of the dynasty, the monarchy has changed overtime. 

He said, “First of all, Japanese emperors had no political power since WWII. Therefore, there is no direct influence of the monarchy to [the] people in Japan.

“Perhaps the only role they have is to be a representation of Japan itself and its culture, which means their role is to present ‘how to be a best Japanese,’ since they all are trained and taught all the proper manners and languages and actually practice what they are taught.”

As a constitutional monarch with no political power, Sato said of the emperor, “He properly practices the best Japanese culture, he is a good emperor. There would be no big impact for Japanese politics.” 


Emperor Naruhito’s public image

Aki Komura, a junior from Japan majoring in TESOL, said, “I think it’s good because [the monarchy] is the symbol of Japan. They can bring a lot of hope and joy for the citizens. One example is that whenever a natural disaster occurs, the emperor encourages the people by talking to affected people directly and shows empathy for them.

“I think it is a good change because it might have become a bigger burden for him [Emperor Akihito] if he kept serving in his position as an emperor despite his age.” 

Takuma Koyama, a senior from Japan majoring in graphic design, said, “I think it is good. This changing of the emperor is historical because usually the emperor changes when the last emperor died.

“But this time the last emperor said he didn’t want us to be confused of the death of the emperor. He decided to quit [being emperor] during his life and changed to a new emperor. This is the first time in Japanese history in 2000 years.”

Ko Sasaki, a freshman majoring in marketing, said, “I never met him before, but he is a very calm person and is very nice. Everyone in Japan loves him because he looks really nice because he is always smiling.” 

Although His Majesty is a figurehead and is the symbol of the nation, the Japanese monarchy is unique. Oyumu Mizuno, a sophomore from Japan majoring in computer science, said, “I learned the emperor is a symbol. He is cool. Having an emperor is kind of unique in Japan because the other countries don’t have an emperor besides having a king.”

According to Mizuno, an emperor’s birthday is a national holiday. When there is a new emperor, the date of the holiday changes.

Throughout its time the Japanese monarchy changed. Akihito became the first emperor to have abdicated and his son began a new era for the Japanese people. 

According to the Honolulu Civil Beat, Hawaii Governor David Y. Ige was one of seven Japanese Americans who were invited to the emperor’s royal residence for the ceremonial event. 

Date Published
November 5, 2019
Last Edited
November 5, 2019