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Japan's new emperor Naruhito ascends Chrysanthemum Throne

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In a ritual on Wednesday at the Imperial Palace, Emperor Naruhito, 59, inherited the royal regalia that serves as ceremonial proof of his ascension, including a sacred sword and jewels.

Tokyo

JAPAN's new emperor Naruhito ascended the Chrysanthemum Throne in a low-key ceremony, taking over his father's duties to serve as the symbol of a nation facing slower economic growth and an ageing population.

In a ritual on Wednesday at the Imperial Palace, Emperor Naruhito, 59, inherited the royal regalia that serves as ceremonial proof of his ascension, including a sacred sword and jewels. A more extravagant enthronement is set for Oct 22, which will involve visits from heads of state and government from around the world, a series of banquets and a parade through the streets of Tokyo.

"In accordance with the constitution, I vow to fulfill my responsibilities as a symbol to the nation and the people of Japan," said Emperor Naruhito, the first emperor born after World War Two.

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"I wish for happiness and prosperity for the nation, and for world peace."

While his position no longer bestows political power or the status as a living god, Emperor Naruhito will serve as titular head of the country of 126 million. He'll bring an international background to the role, having spent two years studying at the University of Oxford in his twenties.

"It will be interesting to see what happens with Japan's relationship with China and South Korea under the new emperor," said Yuji Otabe, professor emeritus of Japanese history at Shizuoka University of Welfare. "I think Naruhito wants to make amends with South Korea and make things better as an Asian neighbour."

Emperor Naruhito's first major diplomatic task will be to entertain US president Donald Trump and his wife, Melania, at a formal banquet during their state visit to Japan later this month. Mr Trump sent his congratulations, promising to "renew the strong bonds of friendship between our two countries."

Chinese president Xi Jinping congratulated the new emperor, saying the two countries should work towards a bright future for bilateral ties. South Korean president Moon Jae-in also sent salutations, urging Emperor Naruhito to remember "pain from the war" and contribute to peace like his father.

On Tuesday, former emperor Akihito, 85, became the first Japanese monarch to relinquish the throne in 202 years, voluntarily stepping down due to health concerns after a three-decade reign.

He affirmed his abdication at a ceremony attended by about 300 political leaders and dignitaries, including prime minister Shinzo Abe, who thanked the "emperor emeritus" for his reign and praised him for giving the Japanese people "courage and hope for tomorrow." BLOOMBERG