Japan's Emperor Naruhito yesterday proclaimed his enthronement at the Imperial Palace in an august ceremony steeped in ritual, vowing to fulfil his duty as the symbol of the state and of the unity of the people as spelt out in the Constitution.
In doing so, he said he will "always wish for the happiness of the people and the peace of the world, turning my thoughts to the people and standing by them".
"I sincerely hope that our country, through our people's wisdom and unceasing efforts, achieves further development and contributes to the friendship and peace of the international community and the welfare and prosperity of humankind," the 59-year-old monarch added, reading from an unfolded script.
Emperor Naruhito ascended the Chrysanthemum Throne on May 1, one day after his father Akihito, 85, abdicated to become Emperor Emeritus.
Yesterday's formal declaration, a ritual that dates back to the Nara period (710-784), is part of a year-long series of ceremonies that will end in April next year.
It was attended by 2,000 domestic and foreign guests from about 180 countries who observed the ceremony in the prestigious Matsu no Ma (Pine Room) from 30 monitors set up in other rooms around the courtyard.
Among the foreign leaders at the ceremony were Singapore President Halimah Yacob, Chinese Vice-President Wang Qishan, South Korean Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon and embattled Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam. Royals, including Malaysia's King Abdullah Ri'ayatuddin, Belgium's King Philippe and Britain's Prince Charles were also present.
Crown Prince Akishino and other adult imperial family members were present, although Emperor Emeritus Akihito and Empress Emerita Michiko, 85, retired from public duties, did not attend.
The Emperor's remarks were to set the tone for his reign of the Reiwa (beautiful harmony) era.
But the 126th monarch in the world's oldest hereditary imperial bloodline also reflected on his father's reign as he spoke from the platform of the 6.5m-tall Takamikura throne, wearing the dark-orange Gosokutai ceremonial court dress reserved for emperors.
"I deeply reflect anew that for more than 30 years on the throne, His Majesty the Emperor Emeritus constantly prayed for the happiness of the people and world peace, always sharing in the joys and sorrows of the people, and showing compassion through his own bearing," he said.
Emperor Naruhito's wife, Empress Masako, 55, took the slightly shorter Michodai platform, wearing the On-itsutsuginu, a five-layered robe made of silk damask.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, standing at ground level and looking up at the Emperor, said: "We, the people... with a renewed spirit, will put our best efforts into creating an era where new culture will flourish as a peaceful, hopeful and proud Japan realises a bright future and the people come together in beautiful harmony."
He then led domestic guests in three cheers of "Banzai!" (long live the Emperor), as the Ground Self-Defence Force fired a gun salute.
The government also pardoned around 550,000 petty criminals yesterday to mark the occasion.
Last night, a court banquet was held for foreign guests, who tucked into a banquet of traditional Japanese washoku cuisine.
On the menu were salt steamed abalone, grilled young sea bream, asparagus wrapped in beef, and a soup of Japanese spiny lobster and matsutake mushrooms.