Two Asian countries officially get new royal leaders this week. Crown Prince Naruhito has taken over as Emperor of Japan, and King Maha Vajiralongkorn will be crowned King of Thailand in a three day event beginning Saturday.
Emperor Akihito of Japan served for 31 years. He’s the first emperor to step down in 200 years. The emperor is 85 and was worried he might not be able to do the job well as he got older.
Emperor Akihito stepped down April 30. As part of the process, Emperor Akihito offered a prayer and returned “treasures” that stand for the throne, including a special sword, jewel, and mirror.
His oldest son, Crown Prince Naruhito, was next in line to become emperor. By law, only males can become emperor, but there are not many men in the Japanese royal family.
On Wednesday morning, Crown Prince Naruhito, 59, became the new emperor. He was given the special sword, jewel, and mirror. Although the emperor in Japan does not have much real power, the position is important to the country. Emperor Naruhito said he would be “always turning my thoughts to the people and standing with them.”
In Japan, the official process of becoming emperor is called “enthronement”. The Chrysanthemum Throne, a symbol of the emperor, is used in the enthronement ceremony. Emperor Naruhito’s enthronement will happen in October.
With Naruhito as emperor, Japan has begun a new era (time period) called “Reiwa”. The era name affects many things in Japan, including the calendar, money, and many special computer systems. Many people are worried that the new era may cause unexpected computer troubles.
In Thailand, Maha Vajiralongkorn became king after his father died in 2016. Though he is king, he has not gone through the coronation – the official ceremony for becoming king. That’s because he was going through a period of showing sadness and respect for the old king. On Saturday, King Vajiralongkorn will begin the coronation process.
As in Japan, Thailand’s royal family does not have much real political power. In fact, in Thailand’s recent election, the king’s sister tried to run for prime minister. She was told she could not, because the royal family was “above politics”.
Still, the royal family is a very important part of life in Thailand. Members of the Thai royal family are treated almost as if they were gods. It is against the law to say anything bad about the royal family or to show any disrespect for them. The royal family is supported by the army, which took control of the government in 2014.
The king’s father, Bhumibol Adulyadej, was king for 70 years and was well known and loved in the country. The new king has spent much of his life outside of Thailand, and is less well known.
The Thai government has been introducing the people to the new king bit by bit. Over time, they have put his picture on buildings, stamps, and money. Now there are huge pictures of the king on streets all through the country.
The coronation will begin on Saturday and will last three days.
Thailand held an election on March 24. There were many questions and concerns about the election, but the official results of the election will not come out until after the coronation.