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24 April 2024

Japan's emperor-to-be celebrates wedding anniversary

Photo: AFP


Japan's crown prince marked his silver wedding anniversary Saturday by pledging to uphold the country's royal traditions when he succeeds his father next year.

Naruhito will ascend to the Chrysanthemum Throne next May following the planned abdication of Emperor Akihito, who will step down after three decades at the helm of the world's oldest imperial family.

The 58-year-old heir to the throne, who has vowed to "dedicate heart and soul" to duties of emperor, used the anniversary of his wedding to Crown Princess Masako to reaffirm his commitment to his future role as ceremonial head of state.

"It is important to steadily play the role of emperor as the symbol (of the state)," Naruhito said in a statement, adding he would continue to observe the traditions of the office.

"As I search for ways to be the symbol, I think it is also important to take action reflecting a change of society," he said.

Naruhito married Masako Owada, the daughter of a diplomatic family, in 1993. In 2001 she gave birth to their only child, a girl.

Masako, 54, said she would continue "praying for people's happiness" to mark the wedding anniversary.

Local media said the royal couple will hold an official reception Saturday at Togu Palace, their official residence.

The status of the emperor is sensitive in Japan - a legacy of the massive Pacific war waged in the name of Akihito's father Hirohito, who died in 1989.

Akihito has keenly embraced the more modern role as a symbol of the state which was imposed on the royal family after World War II ended. Previous emperors including Hirohito had been treated as semi-divine.

But the reigning emperor shocked the country in 2016 when he signalled his desire to end his public duties, citing his age and health problems.

Akihito will be the first emperor to retire in more than two centuries in a royal family that traces its lineage back more than 2,600 years.