Naruhito, the first Japanese emperor to have studied overseas and the first born after Japan's defeat in World War II, formally succeeded to the Chrysanthemum Throne at midnight after his father Akihito abdicated Tuesday. The streets around Tokyo's Imperial Palace were filled with people looking to get a glimpse of the new emperor on Wednesday as he traveled to and from royal ceremonies.
In his first statement as monarch, Naruhito pledged to follow in the footsteps of his father, to promote peace, and to "act according to the constitution".
Chinese President Xi Jinping sent a congratulatory telegram in which he said both countries "have a long history of friendly exchanges". President Donald Trump's message said America and Japan will renew the bonds of friendship in the new era.
Japan was in a festive mood celebrating an imperial succession that occurred by retirement rather than by death. I would like to express my heartfelt respect and appreciation of the comportment shown by His Majesty the Emperor Emeritus as the symbol of the state and of the unity of the people of Japan. The visitors that our state has welcomed over the years are proof of this, from Prince Rainier of Monaco to Naruhito, Emperor of Japan, who has visited the Land of the Mayab twice, in 1992 and 2006.
Watch how the new Emperor has surprised Japan as he starts his era of Reiwa.
Other imperial family members, including the emperor's brother Crown Prince Fumihito, 53, his wife Crown Princess Kiko, 52, and their two daughters, were also present. Naruhito is free of influence from Japan's imperial worship that was fanned by the wartime militarist government that had deified the emperor as a living god until his grandfather renounced that status after Japan's 1945 war defeat.
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"I want it (Reiwa) to be a world that is peaceful and I'd like the economy to improve", he said.
Shortly after the ceremony, Naruhito's wife, Empress Masako, arrived to the palace by auto and donned a diamond-encrusted tiara as she joined her husband for his first address to the nation. But after a change in the rules to allow all cabinet ministers to attend, Satsuki Katayama, Japan's sole female cabinet member, was allowed to attend.
At Tokyo's Chiyoda district office, Natsumi Nishimura, a 27 year-old saleswoman who was at the office to register her marriage with Keigo Mori, a 32- year-old government worker, said they made a decision to tie the knot at the start of a new era to mark their new life together.
But this is not the first time Naruhito has surprised Japan.
In accordance with the law on his father Akihito's abdication, this took place at 00:00 Tokyo time on May 1. After the ratification of Japan's post-WWII constitution, the position became largely symbolic and offers no political power.
Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko were known to be the kind of royalty who were very close to the people and were there to give a healing touch to the sufferers in time of natural calamity or disaster.