The Japanese government is planning to hold a ceremony for Emperor Akihito’s envisioned abdication in December 2018, in what would be the nation’s first such ceremony in around 200 years, government sources said Wednesday.Mind you, I wonder whether one reason for the delay is the amount of time it would seem to take to prepare for the enthronement ceremony of his son. The Wikipedia entry indicates there is a lot of perfection involved:
The last time Japan held a ceremony for an emperor’s abdication was 1817, when Emperor Kokaku relinquished the Chrysanthemum throne. The government will consider how to materialize the plan by studying documents describing ceremonial manners for abdications in the past.
The abdication ceremony is planned to be held aside from a series of enthronement ceremonies for Crown Prince Naruhito. It may be treated as a state act that requires Diet approval for conducting, the sources said.
First, two special rice paddies are chosen and purified by elaborate Shinto purification rites. The families of the farmers who are to cultivate the rice in these paddies must be in perfect health. Once the rice is grown and harvested, it is stored in a special Shinto shrine as its goshintai (御神体), the embodiment of a kami or divine force. Each kernel must be whole and unbroken, and is individually polished before it is boiled. Some sake is also brewed from this rice.Individually polished rice??
Wikipedia links to a NYT report on the enthronement of Akihito in 1990 (I really had forgotten that Hirohito had lived so long after WW2.) It's interesting to see that some Left wingers in the country went as far as firebombing some Shinto shrines in protest that the ceremony seemed to be affirming the old idea that it made the Emperor a living Shinto god. I wonder if the same controversy will happen again, or if Left wingers are less radical now than before.
And, of course, there is the fascinating question of whether the ceremony also implies some symbolic sexual congress with the Sun goddess:
Many articles, for instance, have put forth various theories of scholars about the function of a matted bed and coverlet in the inner sanctum. Some experts have suggested that the Emperor lies on the bed and transforms himself into a god or in some fashion communes, perhaps in a symbolically sexual way, with the spirit of the sun goddess.Expect some similar coverage next year, then...
In response to these theories, the ritualists of the Imperial Household Agency have said that the bed is used as a resting place for the sun goddess but that the Emperor never touches it.