The Emperor of Japan was given 3 sacred treasures in his coronation ceremony that only royals and high priests have ever seen — here's what they represent

IMPERIAL HOUSEHOLD AGENCY – HANDOUT/Anadolu Agency/Getty ImagesNew Emperor Naruhito attends the ‘Kenji-to-Shokei-no-gi’, or Ceremony for Inheriting the Imperial Regalia and Seals, at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo, Japan, 01 May 2019.
  • Japan’s new emperor took the throne Wednesday, ushering in a new era for the country.
  • 59-year-old Emperor Naruhito took power elaborate ceremony marking the beginning of his reign.
  • As part of the ceremony, Naruhito inherited the Imperial Regalia to formally mark his new position – three treasures that are sacred to Japan.
  • No one except previous emperors and senior Shinto priests has ever seen them.
  • Here’s a look at the history of the sacred treasures that have been kept secret for generations.

Japan got a new emperor on Wednesday, ushering in the new Reiwa era and welcoming a new royal to the Chrysanthemum Throne.

59-year-old Emperor Naruhito ascended to the throne in an elaborate ceremony marking the beginning of his reign.

As part of the ceremony, Naruhito inherited the Imperial Regalia to formally mark his new position. These three sacred treasures that are Japan’s most significant possessions.

Here’s a look at the history of the sword, jewel, and mirror that have been kept secret for generations:

The official ceremony began with a series of rituals, as the former emperor, Akihito, stepped down from the throne.

Imperial Household Agency – Handout/Anadolu Agency/Getty

Akihito wore traditional dress on Tuesday as part of his abdication ceremony at the Imperial Palace.

Inside, Akihito declared his resignation to his ancestors and the Shinto gods.


On Wednesday, the new Emperor attended the Kenji-to-Shokei-no-Gi ceremony, which took place in Matsu no Ma (“Hall of Pine”) state room in the Imperial Palace.

The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images

As part of the ceremony, Naruhito formally inherited the Imperial Regalia, which marks his official accession to the throne.

Very few people have actually seen the imperial treasures.

The Asahi Shimbun via Getty ImagesChamberlains holding the boxes to contain the Imperial Regalia get a Shinkansen bullet train at JR Tokyo Station on March 25, 2014 in Tokyo, Japan.

Only the emperor and the most senior priests of the Shinto religion are allowed to see them.

Source: South China Morning Post

The Imperial Regalia, known as “Sanshu-no-Jingi,” consist of three parts.

The Asahi Shimbun via Getty ImagesEmperor Akihito visits the Naiku inner shrine while chamberlains hold the Imperial Regalia at Ise Shrine on April 18, 2019 in Ise, Mie, Japan.

They are a sword, called “Kusanagi-no-Tsurugi,” a mirror, called “Yata-no-Kagami,” and a green jade jewel referred to as the “Yasakani-no-Magatama.”

Together, the items represent positive traits an emperor should have towards his people: valor, wisdom, and benevolence.

Prof Hideya Kawanishi from Nagoya University told the BBC that it is unknown when the objects were made because no one has seen them. While the origins of the objects remain uncertain, they are said to have been passed around over the past 1,000 years or so.

Source: BBC

The items are believed to have come from the Shinto gods.

Kyodo News via Getty ImagesChief priest Ietaka Kuki writes the kanji characters for Japan’s new Imperial era Reiwa in calligraphy at Kumano Hongu Taisha, a Shinto shrine in Tanabe, Wakayama Prefecture, on May 1, 2019, the first day of the era.

According to legend, the treasures previously belonged to Amaterasu, the sun goddess, who was forced into hiding from her brother, Susa-noo, the god of storms, who plunged the world into darkness.

The mirror was used to lure Amaterasu out of hiding. It is supposedly housed in the Grand Shrine in Ise, which is considered one of the holiest places in Japan and is dedicated to the sun goddess.

The comma-shaped Magatama jewel was also used to coax Amaterasu from hiding. Later, Susa-noo gave his sister the Kusanagi sword as a sign of repentance.

Legend says the three items were brought to Earth by Amaterasu’s grandson, Ninigi-no-Mikito, who is regarded as an ancestor of the imperial family. They have since been passed down from emperor to emperor.

Source: South China Morning Post

It’s likely that at least one of the objects presented to Emperor Naruhito is a replica.

Kyodo News via Getty Images

The original treasures are housed in Shinto shrines around Japan, though the actual jewel and the sword may have been present during Akihito’s abdication ceremony.

Some believe the sword was lost at sea during the Battle of Dannoura around 1185, and some accounts suggest a replica was forged.

It is said that the jewel may be the only remaining original of the three treasures.

Regardless, the objects hold symbolic value, showing the “mystery” of the Emperor and are an important part of Japanese royal tradition, Kawanishi told the BBC.

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