TOKYO – Japanese palace officials used an ancient turtle-shell divination Monday to choose sites to harvest sacred rice to be used in an upcoming harvest ritual – the most important one new Emperor Naruhito will perform after enthronement.
Naruhito succeeded the Chrysanthemum Throne on May 1, the day after his 85-year-old father, Akihito, abdicated.
The mid-November Daijosai, or Great Thanksgiving Ceremony, will be Naruhito’s first as emperor to pray for a good harvest for his people.
A group of officials in traditional outfit and headdress who took part in the turtle divination – originally used in ancient China – chose the prefectures of Kyoto in western Japan and Tochigi in the east to grow the rice. In a closed ritual behind a curtain inside a makeshift structure set up on the palace compound, the officials burned a turtle shell and analyzed cracks that appeared on it to determine the sites.
Naruhito, who didn’t participate in the ritual, was later informed of the results by the head of the Imperial Household Agency.
The Daijosai is the first harvest ritual a new emperor performs as an expanded version of an annual Nov. 23 event, and was last held by Akihito in November 1990, a year after his succession. Naruhito will offer newly harvested rice and other items to the imperial ancestors and Shinto gods, thanking them and praying for peace for the people and the nation, while also partaking in the rice himself.
The government-funded Shinto ritual is a divisive one that opponents say could violate Japan’s constitutional separation of religion and state.
Naruhito’s main succession ceremony will be held in October, when thousands of guests from inside and outside Japan will be invited.
A 59-year-old historian who studied at Oxford, Naruhito is Japan’s first emperor born after World War II and the first to have studied overseas. He has pledged to emulate Akihito in seeking peace and staying close to the people.
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