Now’s your last chance to see structures that can’t be seen again until the ascension of the next emperor.

The Reiwa Era is now well underway. Emperor Naruhito’s official enthronement ceremony took place on October 22 and since then he has participated in numerous other ceremonies to mark the dawn of a new era in Japanese history (inadvertently exciting some schoolgirls at a train station along the way).

One of the most recent of these ceremonies was held beginning on the evening of November 14 and lasting through the early morning hours of the 15. Daijosai (大嘗祭), as it’s called, is a Shinto ceremony consisting of a series of rites that the emperor performs within a specially built wooden complex on the grounds of the East Gardens of the Imperial Palace. While the rites themselves were not open for public viewing during the ceremony, the buildings are now accessible to the general public until December 8 from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. daily (entry until 3 p.m.). The structures were constructed during late summer specially for the purposes of the Daijosai and will be demolished after the December 8, not to be built again until after the enthronement of the next emperor.

Here are a few snapshots of the complex taken by recent visitors to the grounds:

Now for a little more information about some of the most important buildings to look for.

Yukiden (悠紀殿) and Sukiden (主基殿): twin cabled roof buildings facing viewers on the right (representing eastern Japan) and left (representing western Japan), respectively. Starting at the Yukiden, the Emperor performed the same rituals within each of the buildings. These rituals were shrouded in secrecy to the public but it is reported that he offered newly harvested grains and other foods to the Shinto deities, sampled some of the offerings himself, as well as read a prayer dedicated to the gods asking for peace and a bountiful harvest. The buildings themselves are distinguishable by their crossed rafters in the shape of a “V”at both ends of the roofs.

Choden (帳殿): a smaller building next to the above two where the empress waited during the ceremony.

Kairyuden (廻立殿): a large building in the far central back area. Its interior is partitioned into three sections: the middle section corresponds to the former site of the Edo Castle, the western section is a bathing area where the Emperor and Empress cleansed themselves before the ceremony, and the eastern section is a room where the Empress was dressed in her ceremonial kimono.

Ugioroka (雨儀御廊下): a wall-less roofed passageway which extends from the farthest central section of the Kairyuden to the front of the grounds. The emperor passed through this corridor during the ceremony.

The Daijosai in general has raised some controversy in Japan because some argue that it’s a violation of the separation of state and religion as mandated in the Japanese constitution. It was also funded by state funds to the ire of many. Regardless, hundreds of visitors have swarmed the complex since the ceremony took place, resulting in long lines and some wait time. The Imperial Household Agency has asked that all visitors between 9 a.m.-3 p.m. line up by the Sakashita-mon Gate of the Imperial Palace grounds (see official instructions along with other regulations in English here).

Source: Imperial Household Agency via Japaaan
Top image: Wikipedia/あばさー
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