TOKYO • Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako of Japan rode through central Tokyo yesterday in a motorcade to mark this year's imperial succession as well-wishers waved national flags and held up mobile phones for snapshots of the smiling royal couple.
Emperor Naruhito, 59, acceded to the throne in May after his father, Akihito, became the first Japanese monarch to abdicate in two centuries.
The parade was originally set for Oct 22, when the emperor officially proclaimed his enthronement before dignitaries from about 190 countries, but it was postponed as Japan grappled with the aftermath of a devastating typhoon.
Under a cloudless blue sky, the imperial couple waved from an open-top Toyota Century limousine, which cruised through the capital city's streets lined with jubilant spectators as well as police officers, who were out in force.
Emperor Naruhito wore a tailcoat while Empress Masako, a Harvard-educated former diplomat, was in a white dress and a tiara, sparkling in the sunshine, a stark contrast from the enthronement ceremony, in which both wore traditional robes.
Tens of thousands of spectators from across the country gathered along the 4.6km route to watch.
Some had begun queueing the day before in order to ensure a good vantage point on the route.
"To witness this historical moment with my own eyes and to see the smile of the emperor and empress, I wanted to be in the front," said Ms Hiyori Okazaki, who queued from late on Saturday in front of the Imperial Palace. "I couldn't wait, so came last night."
Ms Toshiko Ito, who was in Tokyo with her husband to watch the procession, said she was thrilled to see the couple. "Emotion welled up and I was so happy that I was about to cry," she said.
While bands played celebratory music, the 400m-long motorcade of 46 vehicles, including cars carrying Crown Prince Akishino, Crown Princess Kiko and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, moved slowly through the streets.
Japan has earmarked about 16.1 billion yen (S$200 million) for succession-related events throughout the year, including yesterday's parade. This is an increase of 30 per cent from Akihito's succession three decades ago.