Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Gold, silk, lacquer: The kit and garb of Japan’s imperial ceremony

Gold, silk, lacquer: The kit and garb of Japan’s imperial ceremony

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Japanese Emperor Naruhito (left) and Empress Masako attend the enthronement ceremony where emperor officially proclaims his ascension to the Chrysanthemum Throne at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo on Tuesday. KAZUHIRO NOGI/POOL/AFP

Gold, silk, lacquer: The kit and garb of Japan’s imperial ceremony

From rarely seen outfits, elaborate thrones and ancient paraphernalia adorned Tuesday’s sacred and sumptuous ceremony marking the formal ascension of Emperor Naruhito to Japan’s Chrysanthemum Throne.

The new emperor took the throne earlier this year after his father Akihito’s abdication, but the proclamation ceremony cements the transition in stunning style.

Here are some of the elements that were on show:

Imperial Thrones

The emperor and empress are each allotted an enormous throne, consisting of a relatively restrained seat set inside an elaborate canopy atop a fenced platform.

The emperor’s eight-tonne throne is called “Takamikura”, while the empress’s smaller “august seat” is known as “Michodai”.

The structures are made of lacquered cypress wood and were disassembled for transport from the ancient capital of Kyoto to Tokyo for the ceremony.

The emperor’s seat sits inside a canopy featuring rich purple curtains hanging from a roof decorated with golden curlicue adornments and 16-petal chrysanthemum crests.

Underneath is a rectangular stage with low red fencing and side panels painted with legendary animals.

On the points of the octagonal roof sit golden phoenixes, with another larger version of the bird atop the roof’s peak.

To either side of the emperor’s chair are desks where a sacred sword and jewel, part of the imperial regalia, and seals will be placed.

But the emperor did not actually sit on the throne during the ceremony, remaining standing throughout.

The new emperor’s clothes

Content image - Phnom Penh Post

For the ceremony, the emperor wore a silk outfit in the sokutai or ceremonial style. The outfit is now rarely seen and is dominated by a voluminous draped brown-gold outer robe with long, wide sleeves and a cinched waist.

Royal attire often includes motifs of birds, as they were considered divine envoys in ancient times and the emperor’s outer garment is decorated with a mythical Chinese phoenix, believed to symbolise the arrival of peace.

During the ceremony, the emperor and other male royals carried a shaku or sceptre – a narrow plain wooden plate not unlike a large shoehorn.

In the past, royals would sometimes attach “cheat sheets” to the back of the shaku to help guide them through complex rituals.

But the crowning glory of the emperor’s outfit is the kanmuri hat, which consists of a simple flat black base and a towering black tail at the back that extends upright 60cm.

Fit for an empress

Empress Masako wore an elaborate outfit commonly known as junihitoe – or 12-layered robe.

Masako wore outfits with part of the rich red sleeves and bottom visible underneath multiple layers of varying lengths. Top layers will be light lilac and green shades with light purple lapels.

Masako’s hair was sculpted into a style that sweeps up and out to the sides with a long ponytail extending from the back and a large golden hairpiece pinned above her forehead.

The elaborate traditional outfit, which can be hard to walk in because of its weight, is rarely seen outside imperial rituals and weddings.

The sacred treasures

The ceremony could not be complete without the presence of the “sacred treasures”. Japanese mythology has it that the sun goddess Amaterasu bequeathed the regalia to the imperial line two millennia ago.

The treasures are the “Yata no Kagami”, a mirror, “Kusanagi no Tsurugi”, a sword, and the “Yasakani no Magatama”, a comma-shaped bead made of green jade.

The possession of the “three sacred treasures” is considered crucial evidence of an emperor’s legitimacy, but there are no photos of them and even the emperor cannot see them.

The treasures were handed to the new emperor in the initial enthronement ceremony held on May 1.

During the proclamation ceremony, a replica sword and the original bead were brought wrapped in cloth. Both are kept at the palace, along with a replica mirror that is not brought out for ceremonies.


  • Cambodia armed with money laundering laws

    Money laundering will now carry a penalty of up to five years in prison while those convicted of financing terrorists will be jailed for up to 20 years, according to new laws promulgated by King Norodom Sihamoni and seen by The Post on Thursday. Comprising nine

  • Schools to be reopened in ‘three stages’

    With guidance from Prime Minister Hun Sen, the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, is in the process of reopening schools in three stages. But no timeline has been set, ministry spokesperson Ros Soveacha said on Thursday. Soveacha said the first stage will be to

  • Thai border crossings eased

    The Cambodian Embassy in Thailand said in an announcement on Wednesday that Thailand’s government has allowed certain passengers from several countries to enter its borders. The visitors must go back to their country immediately after their duties in Thailand are fulfilled, the embassy said.

  • Gov’t says tourism recovers slightly despite pandemic

    The Ministry of Tourism and the Phnom Penh municipal administration have recognised 33 tourism businesses in the capital which have consistently implemented safety measures for tourists and adhered to the code of conduct issued by the ministry. Recently, the ministry announced that tourism businesses had to

  • Mull ASEAN border opening, PM urges

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has requested that ASEAN launch a scenario for gradually reopening cross-border travel and trade between countries in the region. He said ASEAN has had more success combating Covid-19 compared to other regions. The prime minister’s request was made at the

  • Ministry reports 11 new Covid-19 cases, reiterates vigilance

    Minister of Health Mam Bun Heng has urged people to continue practising virus prevention techniques after 11 people tested positive for Covid-19 within two days after arriving in the Kingdom. Speaking on Sunday, Bun Heng stressed the importance of washing hands, wearing masks or scarves when

  • Koh Rong land ‘belongs to firm’

    Preah Sihanouk Provincial Administration spokesperson Kheang Phearum told The Post on Sunday that the 35ha being bulldozed by Royal Group Co Ltd in Koh Rong belongs to it after it was leased to it for 99 years by the government in 2008. Phearum said the land does

  • Nine on Indonesia flight Covid-19 positive

    The Ministry of Health on Saturday confirmed nine more imported cases of Covid-19. The nine ‒ eight Cambodians and one Indonesian, aged 22 to 26 ‒ arrived in Cambodia on Thursday via a direct flight from Indonesia and are receiving treatment at the Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hostipal in Phnom Penh.

  • Kingdom’s financial sector healthy

    Cambodia's financial sector remains on a sustainable growth path despite the Covid-19 pandemic squeezing crucial industries, National Bank of Cambodia (NBC) governor Chea Chanto said. Tourism, garments and footwear have borne the brunt of the Covid-19 impact, he said, whereas the financial and agriculture sectors

  • Vietnam told to remove border tents

    Kandal provincial governor Kong Sophoan has ordered local authorities to prohibit the construction of buildings in areas bordering Cambodia and to report any irregularities immediately. Recently, Vietnamese officials removed another seven tents from the border area with Cambodia. His remarks were made on Wednesday afternoon