TOKYO -- Crown Prince Naruhito ascended to Japan's Chrysanthemum Throne at midnight Wednesday, marking the beginning of the new Reiwa era.
The new emperor succeeded his father, Akihito, who became the first emperor to abdicate since 1817. Akihito now holds the title of joko and has retired from public duties along with his wife, now Jokogo Michiko.
Emperor Naruhito will attend a handover ceremony in the morning to receive a jewel and a sword, two of Japan's "Three Sacred Treasures" passed through the Imperial family for generations. He will also make his first remarks as emperor to the leaders of the executive, legislative and judicial branches.
When Akihito ascended to the throne in January 1989 he said that he "wanted to work with the people to protect the constitution and fulfill duties accordingly." True to his word, he actively interacted with the public during his reign, known as Heisei. Now the country waits to hear Emperor Naruhito's vision for Reiwa.
Wednesday also marks the start of the new emperor's public duties, such as swearing in key aides. A separate ceremony to celebrate his accession is planned for October, to be attended by dignitaries from around the world.
Crown Prince Akishino, the emperor's younger brother, is now first in line for the throne. He is followed by his son, Prince Hisahito; and his uncle, Prince Hitachi. Under the special one-time law that allowed his abdication, the former emperor cannot retake the throne.
"Reiwa" was taken from the Manyoshu, the oldest existing anthology of Japanese poetry, which used language describing plum blossoms in the spring.
The new era's name signifies the culture born when people bring their hearts together in a beautiful manner, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has said.