Sokui no rei (ceremony of the enthronement) (即位の礼)
Sokui no rei is a ceremony that notifies publicly that the Emperor succeeded the Imperial Throne after the accession. It is considered the highest ceremony of the Imperial Family. It is equivalent to a coronation in many foreign countries.
It is called sokui (enthronement) that the Crown Prince newly ascends the Imperial Throne. In ancient times, it was simple, focusing on congratulating the Emperor for his long and prosperous reign and offering Yasakani-no-Magatama (comma-shaped jewel) to the god. In the Heian period, accession to the throne and enthronement started to be held as separate ceremonies. The Chinese style ceremony continued until the Edo period. The ceremonies related to an enthronement are called enthronement ceremonies as a whole. They are divided into the 'Senso-no-gi,' in which the Crown Prince accedes to the throne and 'Sokui no rei,' in which imperial proclamation is carried out in and around.
In the Meiji Period, the contents of the ceremonies were stipulated in detail by the Tokyoku-rei (former Imperial House Law). Since the law was abolished after the war, there are no specific regulations about the contents although the Imperial House Act regulates to hold the Sokui no rei.
An enthronement ceremony
Moreover, after the Sokui no rei, once-in-a-lifetime Daijosai (first ceremonial offering of rice by newly-enthroned Emperor) is held to appreciate abundant crop and to pray for a continuous good harvest. Sokui no rei, Daijosai and a series of ceremonies are together called a Tairei or Taiten.
After the Meiji period, it became custom that the day of the Sokui no rei becomes a national holiday only for that year like other Imperial-Family congratulations-and-condolences events. The days of Emperor Taisho's and Emperor Showa's Sokui no rei were set as national holidays by the Imperial edicts, and the day of the present Emperor's Sokui no rei of was set as a national holiday by the law.
The flow of Sokui no rei
Although there were no distinction between accession and enthronement in ancient times, the enthronement ceremony of Emperor Kanmu was held days after his accession. Then the distinction was made by the establishment of Jogan-shiki Code. The ceremonies started to be held in Chinese style. In and after medieval times, Buddhist style ceremonies called Sokui Kanjo (Buddhist ritual of accession ordination) were also held (although it is said that the first case was made at Emperor Gosanjo, it become an established custom after Emperor Gofukakusa). The style continued until the Edo period.
Since the Emperor was regarded as the national supreme leader by the Meiji Restoration, the form of a series of ceremonies in regard of the accession and enthronement of the Emperor was defined by the newly established Imperial House Act and Tokyoku-rei. Taisho's tairei was held in Heian style.
Since the Tokyoku-rei stipulated to hold Sokui no rei in Kyoto, Taisho's and Showa's were taken place in Kyoto Imperial Palace. However, the location was not stipulated by the present Imperial House Act, established in 1947; the Sokui no rei of Hisei was held in the Imperial Palace in Tokyo.
For this reason, the ceremony formerly called 'Ceremony of Shishin-den Hall' became 'Enthronement Ceremony.'
The ceremony starts with announcing the date to Amaterasu Omikami (the Sun Goddess), Imperial Family's soshin (ancestor honored as god) and successive Emperors. The report is made to the Three Shrines in the Imperial Court, and an Imperial envoy is dispatched to Ise-jingu Shrine. The time of the ceremony was designated spring to autumn by the Tokyoku-rei. The enthronement ceremony and Daijosai are not held during the mourning period, for one year after the death of the previous emperor.
Moreover, this mourning period is especially called 'ryoan.'
In Sokui no rei, 'Enthronement Ceremony' is the most important ceremony where the Emperor wears sokutai (traditional ceremonial court dress); and the Empress wears juni-hitoe (twelve-layered ceremonial kimono). The emperor's sokutai is called Korozen no goho (a cloth which an Emperor puts on when he performs an important ritual); it may be worn by the Emperor only. The Imperial thrones used at the Enthronement Ceremony are called Takamikura (Imperial Throne) for the Emperor and Michodai for the Empress. Above a three-layered blackening throne, there is an octagon roof with ornaments of phoenixes, mirrors, etc. The height was 5.9 meters, the width was 6 meters, and the weight was 8 tons. Michodai has fewer ornaments than Takamikura.
Although it is one of the most important ceremonies among the Imperial-Family events, the ceremony of Emperor Gokashiwabara, who acceded to the throne in 1500, could not be held his due to the Imperial financial condition. His Sokui no rei was held in 1521, 22 years after the accession, with financial support mainly from the Muromachi bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun). Moreover, Emperor Ogimachi's enthronement ceremony was held with financial support from Motonari MORI because of Imperial financial difficulty.
Sokui no rei of Emperor Meiji
Because dates in Tenpo reki (Tenpo calendar), which was used when Emperor Meiji's Sokui no rei was held, differ from the Gregorian calendar, which is used today, dates are describes in order of Tenpo reki and (Gregorian calendar).
After the death of the Emperor Komei on December 25, Keio 2 (old lunar calendar) (January 30, 1867), Imperial Prince Mutsuhito ascended and succeeded Imperial Throne in the following year, on January 9, Keio 3 (old lunar calendar) (February 13, 1867). Although the Sokui no rei was originally going to be held in November, it was postponed because of the troubled national situation in the transitions of time, such as Restoration of the Imperial rule.
The new Meiji Government aimed at new enthronement ceremony, which might be appropriate for the changes, in order to declare the arrival of a new era in May Keio 4 (the first year of the Meiji period/ 1868). For that purpose, Koremi KAMEI, who was the lord of Tsuwano Domain and the vice-governor of Jingikan (Department of Divinities), was appointed to the "new-style enthronement investigation Goyogakari (official of the Imperial Household)." Tomomi IWAKURA ordered Kamei to abolish Chinese style ceremony and revive the ancient ceremony. The style was changed to the style of the Heian period, and at the ceremony, a terrestrial globe was used as a symbol of the new era in order to show majesty of the Emperor to the world.
On August 17, Keio 4 (old lunar calendar) (October 2, 1868), it was announced that Sokui no rei would be held ten days later, on August 27 (old lunar calendar) (October 12, 1868). Related ceremonies were held from the 21st of the same month. On the 27th of the same month, the day of Sokui no rei, a proclaimer read out the manifesto, and highest ranked attendant offered congratulations and recited an old poem. Then, everyone said 'hai' in unison with, and the ceremony was ended.
Tairei of Meiji: total cost 43,800 Ryo (unit of currency)
The ceremony of dispatching an Imperial envoy to Ise-jingu Shrine: August 21, Keio 4 (October 6, 1868)
The ceremony of dispatching Imperial envoys to the Imperial mausoleums of Emperor Jinmu, Emperor Tenchi and Emperors of last three generations: August 22 of the same year (October 7 of the same year)
Gotenarai of Shishinden (hall for state ceremonies) and Seiryoden (Literally "Limpid Cool Hall," an imperial summer palace): August 23 of the same year (October 8 of the same year)
Sokui no rei: August 27 of the same year (October 12 of the same year)
Daijo-sai festival: November 17, Meiji 4 (December 28, 1871)
Sokui no rei and Daijo-sai festival of Emperor Taisho
The Sokui no rei of Taisho, which was the first Sokui no rei after the establishment of the Imperial House Act and Tokyoku-rei, was held at the Shishin-den in Kyoto on November 10, 1915 (Taisho 4). The Takamikura and other objects were newly made for the ceremonies although they used same ceremonial objects as predecessor Emperor Komei at the Sokui no rei of Meiji, which was held shortly after the establishment of new government. Moreover, a michodai, Empress's throne, was set next to the Takamikura hereinafter. However, she was absent because of pregnancy (Mikasanomiya Imperial Prince Takahito). Kunio YANAGITA, who was in the House of Peers, was also present. He left a proposal for Daijo-sai festival.
The tairei of Taisho: General budget, 8,538,357 yen (amount at that time)
Sokui no rei: November 10, 1915
Daijo-sai festival: November 14 and 15 of the same year
Sokui no rei and Daijo-sai festival of Emperor Showa
On November 6, 1928 (Showa 3), Emperor Showa left Miyagi and went to Kyoto Imperial Palace to hold the Sokui no rei. The parade of the Emperor heading to Kyoto consisted of two army captains at the head, following a palanquin which the divine mirror of Kashikodokoro (Imperial Sanctuary) enshrined, a coach-and-six which Emperor Showa rode, a coach-and-four which Empress Kojun rode, a coach of the Naidaijin (minister of the center) (Nobuaki MAKINO), a representative of royal family, and the Prime Minister (Giichi TANAKA). The six-hundred-meter-long parade was arranged to move 86 meters per minute.
On November 10, the attendants of the Sokui no rei was 2,000 or more besides the 665 persons ranked above the First Order of Merit and 92 foreign envoys. Prime Minister Giichi TANAKA gave three cheers at the ceremony.
Having finished the ceremony of Shishinden, the Emperor visited Ise-jingu Shrine on November 21. He reported that a series of ceremonies involving the tairei of enthronement was finished and then returned to the capital. After his return to the capital, there were a military review, a naval review, etc. in addition to feasts, such as an Imperial Court banquet and an evening party.
A rice field in Mikami Village, Yasu-gun County, Shiga Prefecture was chosen for the field of Yuki (the first province to offer the first rice crop of the year at the Daijo-sai festival), and a rice field in Wakiyama Village, Sawara-gun County, Fukuoka Prefecture was chosen for the field of Suki (place where Daijosai takes place). The news was announced in March. It is said that the general budget of the tairei of Showa was 19,683,637.55 yen, in the amount of money in those days.
The Imperial message at the Enthronement Ceremony
* The kanji (Chinese characters) were altered to the commonly used characters.
January 17: The ceremony of announcing the dates to Kashikodokoro (a palace sanctuary), the ceremony of announcing the dates to a shrine/ Korei den (Ancestral Spirits Sanctuary)
February 5: The ceremony of appointing the Saiden (rice fields to cultivate rice plants for deities)
June 1: The rice planting ceremony at the rice field of Yuki (the first province to offer the first rice crop of the year at the Daijo-sai festival)
June 5 to 7: The rice planting ceremony at Suki rice field
August 5: Jichinsai (ground-breaking ceremony) at the Daijo-gu.
September 16: The ceremony of gathering ears of rice in the field of Yuki
September 21: The ceremony of gathering ears of rice in the field of Suki
October 16: The ceremony of the offering of new crop, purification ceremony of rice field of Yuki
October 17: The ceremony of the offering of new crop
November 6: The ceremony of Imperial visit to Kyoto
November 7: Shunkyo-den (a part of Heiankyo Palace)
November 10: The ceremony of announcing to the Imperial Ancestors' shrine.
The same day: The ceremony of Kashikodokoro-omae
The same day: The ceremony of Shishinden
November 11: The ceremony of Mikagura (Music performed in court shinto ceremonies) at the Kashikodokoro
November 13: The Chinsa (religious ceremony [to appease the gods]) at the Daijo-gu, repose of souls ceremony
November 14: The ceremony of hohei (offering a wand with hemp and paper streamers to a Shinto god) at Daijosai-jingu Shrine, the ceremony of hohei at Korei den (Ancestral Spirits Sanctuary) Shrine and Kanpeisha and Kokuheisha shrines.
The same day: The ceremony of Kashikodokoro Omike offering, the cereminy of Daijo-gu Yuki-den building
November 15: The ceremony of Daijo-gu Suki rice field
November 16: The ceremony of grand banquet
November 19: The imperial visit to Ise
November 26: Kanko no gi (ceremony of Emperor to go back home) to Tokyo
November 27: The ceremony for the return of the Emperor at kashikodokoro (palace sanctuary), Unmeiden (Sanctuary in the Imperial Palace).
November 30: The ceremony of shinetsu, Emperor's visit, to Korei den (Ancestral Spirits Sanctuary)
July 16, 1929 (Showa 4): The ceremony of Daijo-gu Jichinsai
Moreover, Shinkeihan Railway, the former Hankyu Kyoto Line, and Nara Electric Railway, the former Kintetsu Kyoto Line, provisionally opened in time for the enthronement of the Emperor Showa. In the mass media relevance, the ceremony was covered live on radio broadcasting, which started in 1925. However, it was broadcasted based on only the sound and the timetable since to live report facing the parade was forbidden. NEC Corporation developed Japanese-made picture transmission equipment, "NE style picture transmission equipment" with the two engineers, Yasujiro NIWA and Masatsugu KOBAYASHI. The equipment was as good as imported products in any way.
Sokui no rei and Daijo-sai festival of the present Emperor
The ceremonies that concerned Akihito's Sokui no rei and Daijo-sai festival started with the ceremony of announcing the dates on January 23, 1990 (Heisei 2), and the related events were held for one year.
At the Sokui no rei, 37,000 Imperial guards and police officers, were mobilized to guard the ceremonies and protect VIPs, more than at the time of Imperial funeral ceremony of Emperor Showa where 32,000 were mobilized. They held the thorough inspections and so on. It is said that the special budget for the security reached 5,400 million yen.
From November 12th to 15th, banquets celebrating the enthronement were taken seven times at Homeiden State Banquet Hallin in the palace, and a total of 3,500 honored guests were invited.
"The Sokui no rei and the Enthronement Ceremony" (1 hour and 40 minutes air time from 12:20), which broadcasted on NHK, had an average audience rating of 31.9 percent (in Kanto region according to Video Research).
The Imperial message at the Enthronement Ceremony
Imperial Throne was succeeded in advance under the provision of the Constitution of Japan and the Imperial House Act, and here, I hold the Enthronement Ceremony and announce the enthronement in and around.
At this moment, I am reminded of the will of my father Emperor Showa who always shared joys and sorrows with Japanese people during little more than 60 year of his reign. I swear to accomplish the duties as a symbol of Japan and the unity of the Japanese people as I always wish people's happiness and follow the Constitution of Japan. I eagerly hope that our country accomplishes further development and contributes to the friendship and peace of the international society and the welfare and prosperity of human beings by our people's wisdom and persistent efforts.
The ceremony of Kashikodokoro-omae and the ceremony of announcing to the Imperial Ancestors' shrine
The ceremony that the Emperor announces to Amaterasu Omikami, the gods of heaven and earth and successive Emperors, enshrined in Kashikodokoro, Korei-den and shinden (they are called the Three Shrines in the Imperial Court) that he is going to hold Sokui no rei (to inform gods is called hokoku).
The rice field where new grain grows to use at the Daijo-sai festival. The rice fields have been selected by kiboku (augury reading the crack in a burned tortoise shell) since ancient times. The two rice fields are chosen, namely, Yuki, which is selected from the regions located south and/or east of Kyoto, and Suki, which is selected from the regions located north and/or west of Kyoto.
The Imperial mausoleum of previous four Emperors
The countries that had invitations but did not participated due to the circumstances of each country
German Democratic Republic: Due to re-unification of Germany
Iraq: The invitation was cancelled by Imperial Household Agency due to the invasion of Kuwait, which was considered an international issue.
Cambodia: Due to the domestic conflict
The feelings of people of Kyoto City for Sokui no rei
Even after the modern ages, Sokui no rei had been continuously taken place at Kyoto Imperial Palace, and so were Emperor Meiji's, Emperor Taisho's and Emperor Showa's. Therefore, people of Kyoto City were deeply disappointed with the location of the present Emperor's Sokui no rei. It left the impression that the position of Kyoto City, where the formal Takamikura are kept, greatly went down.
However, there were also unavoidable circumstances due to transition of time. Unlike previous three Sokui no rei, many important persons attended Heisei's Sokui no rei from overseas. Therefore, it was easier and less expensive to guard in Tokyo. Kansai International Airport did not open yet at that time, and Kansai area was not fully ready to accept so many important persons. For another example, the biggest reason that the Lake Toya area in Hokkaido has been selected as the venue for the 34th summit held in Japan in 2008 was also easier to guard since the area is isolated from the surroundings.