Source: Associated Press
By MARI YAMAGUCHI
TOKYO (AP) — Japan’s Prince Akishino said a highly religious ritual that is part of next year’s succession ceremonies should be paid for privately by the Imperial family, and questioned the government’s decision to use public money.
Emperor Akihito’s younger son spoke about the contentious issue in a news conference that was recorded for his 53rd birthday on Friday. Akihito plans to abdicate next year and will be succeeded by Crown Prince Naruhito. Akishino would then become first in line of succession.
Akishino said that using public funds for the Daijosai, the first communion that the new emperor performs with Shinto gods, is questionable since Japan’s Constitution separates religion and state.
The ritual is expected in mid-November next year, and the government has announced that it would cover the cost, following the precedent set at the time of Akihito’s succession 30 years ago. The cost of that rite alone was 2.25 billion yen ($20 million), though the government is expected to spend slightly less next year. The palace budget this year for the Imperial family’s private activities, including religious ones, is about one-seventh of that amount, and Akishino said the ceremony could be scaled down to reduce its cost.