TOKYO -- Japan's Emperor Naruhito completed the final ritual for his succession to the throne overnight from Thursday to Friday, with the mythical nocturnal ceremony shrouded in secrecy and stirring controversy in secular Japanese society for its religious overtones.
During the Daijosai ceremony, the emperor thanks the sun goddess Amaterasu Omikami for the rice harvest in a shrine especially erected for this purpose in his Tokyo palace.
According to myth and tradition, the emperor is then alone in spirit with the goddess in a room containing a bed.
After the ceremony ended shortly before dawn on Friday, the 59-year-old Naruhito -- who succeeded his 85-year-old father Akihito to the throne on May 1 -- officially entered Japan's line of emperors.
No information has been provided to Japanese citizens about what takes place during the Daijosai; the emperor learns about the details of the ritual from his predecessor.
Some 675 witnesses were invited to the ceremony, including political and civil service leaders, to observe the events from roofed shelters.
The shrine built for the ceremony will be taken down now that the ceremony is complete.
Critics complain that the deeply religious ceremony is fully financed by the state, even though the Japanese postwar constitution stipulates that there should be a strict separation of state and religion.
This marks the last of three ceremonies to formalize Naruhito's ascension to the throne.
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