Japan starts construction work on shrines for new emperor’s succession rituals

Japan has held a groundbreaking ceremony at the imperial palace, where Shinto priests prayed for safe and successful construction of a pair of shrines for Emperor Naruhito’s key succession rituals later this year.

Naruhito ascended to the Chrysanthemum Throne on May 1.

A main ascension ceremony is planned in October, when thousands of guests from in and outside Japan will be invited, followed by a religious harvest rite in November.

Japan Imperial Groundbreaking
Shinto priests walking (Kyodo/AP)

Five Shinto priests offered sake, rice and silk fabric and prayed inside tents as the traditional “gagaku” music played.

The planned shrines, which are to be demolished later, will be the site of Naruhito’s first Daijosai, or the Great Thanksgiving, ritual on November 14-15.

Some experts say the ritual violates the separation of state and religion.