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Wednesday, April 10, 2019

The Chrysanthemum Throne of Japan -- a Mythological Heritage

The Chrysanthemum Throne of Japan has an octagonal structure that sits atop a rectangular platform. The throne itself is an unassuming lacquered chair. On the top of the roof of the structure is the sculpture of a large phoenix bird called Hō-ō and at each corner stand smaller golden phoenixes. The chrysanthemum flower is the symbol of the Emperor and the emblem of the Imperial House. 

That's it. It is official! The Chrysanthemum Throne will have a new dweller and the name assigned to his reign will be "Reiwa". On May 1st, the media spotlights of the country (and perhaps of the world) will be focused on the ceremony of the coronation of Crown Prince Naruhito as the 126th Emperor of Japan, after his father, Emperor Akihito makes way for his eldest son on April 30th. The word Reiwa is composed by two Japanese ideograms (called kanjiRei + Wa, which mean "order" or "command" and "peace" or "harmony", respectively, and it was taken from the eighth-century work Man'yoshu, the oldest anthology of Japanese poetry. Japan runs two calendars in parallel: the Gregorian and the one assigned to the extent of the emperor's incumbency. The name of the era is applied posthumously to the emperor; e.g., the late Emperor Hirohito is referred today as the Emperor Showa.
The then Crown Prince Akihito with his commoner bride, Michiko
Shoda on their wedding day in 1959. Seated on his right is the late
Emperor Hirohito and at her left is the late Empress Nagako
(photo @ Wikipedia).
An added highlight to this event is the fact that it will be the first imperial abdication for more than 200 years. Emperor Akihito's health has been deteriorating since he underwent surgery for prostate cancer in January 2003. Akihito was a modern monarch, who expressed overtly the desire to bring the imperial family closer to the ordinary people of his country. He caused controversy by declaring in 2001, when political tensions were mounting between Japan and Korea, that as a descendant of Emperor Kammu -- the son of a Korean Princess, Niigasa -- he felt a kinship with Koreans. He was also the first sovereign to marry a commoner -- Michiko Shoda -- breaking more than 2,600 years of tradition. During his reign (Heisei Era, 1989 to 2019), the nation enjoyed peace, but it was burdened by a period of economic stagnation -- "the Lost Decade" -- after the Japanese asset price bubble's collapse in later 1991; followed by the loss of more than 16,000 lives to the massive tsunami that flooded 200 square miles of coastal land in 2011.

Japan is a land of traditions and contradictions. It is where technology meets historical convention in perfect harmony; it is where shortcomings of nature (rugged terrains, mountains and forests cover 66% of its total territory) propelled the inhabitants to cultivate rice in terraced paddies, and volcanic spoils to be adapted into baths to produce health benefits. It is where the shrinking population and shortage of middle-class workers channelled investments into the robotic technology.
The mythological monster -- Yamata-no-Orochi
It is also a land full of mythological chronicles and folkloric monsters.
Its imperial house, aka "Yamato Dynasty", is a royal clan who has been holding the sceptre of the throne for over twenty-six centuries, in an unbroken succession. These sovereigns (including Akihito and Naruhito) are allegedly, the offspring of Deities Izanami and Izanagi, who, according to the legend, created the islands (four main islands: Honshu, Shikoku, Kyushu and Hokkaido) and gave birth to the Kami (Gods), from whom its people are supposed to stem.
The Japanese first emperor is known as Jimmu, who upon defeating belligerent tribes and conquering the east islands, founded the country of Japan in year 660 BCE and self-proclaimed its emperor.
Along the years, his descendants survived treachery and rivalries by making alliances with powerful aristocratic families, but with the emergence of the samurai warrior class, the Yamato Sovereigns lost the grip to power and the Shogun assume the sway of the country in the early twelfth century. The emperors' role became merely symbolic and it would remain so for the next seven centuries.

Please visit my site to read more about the mythological beginning and historical narratives of Japan.

My book "The Goddesses of Japan" is the first novel of the series The Goddesses of the World. It is entirely narrated by unsung heroines, and spans the Creation of the country to its modernisation at the 19th century. It is sold at Amazon in ebook and paperback formats.



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