With Monday's formal enthronement of Japan's 125th emperor, Akihito, the country has a new and great opportunity for an expanded role in the world community.
Under terms of the country's U.S.-dictated constitution and through terms demanded by Gen. Douglas MacArthur, U.S. occupation commander at the end of World War II, Emperor Akihito's role will not be divine. Instead, he will be no more than a symbol of state.Nonetheless, as "ruler" in the world's longest surviving monarchy, the emperor can still be counted upon not only to instigate many changes but to exert great influence on the course his country will follow.
He already has traveled more widely than any of his predecessors and is well aware of changes needed to meet Japan's challenges in the world. At his enthronement he expressed confidence that Japan will contribute not only to world prosperity but to international peace.
Akihito has set the stage for this by making great changes personally and in breaking with archaic traditions. He became the first Japanese heir-apparent to marry a commoner, has encouraged his children to live like ordinary Japanese and has educated his children abroad. It is little wonder that along the way, he has earned the sobriquet "salaryman monarch" - the equivalent of "white collar" worker - because of those efforts for change and in leading a normal family life within the old imperial system.
As Prime Minister Toskiki Kaifu observed, the emperor's accession will likely launch the "building of a new Japan open to the world, vigorous and culturally rich."