Japan’s Emperor Naruhito has pledged to fulfil his role as a “symbol of the state and unity”, in his first public address since taking the throne.
The 59-year-old was speaking as he officially began his reign on Wednesday in a short but symbolic ceremony at the Imperial Palace.
Naruhito succeeds his father, 85-year-old Akihito, who abdicated citing his age and failing health.
He is the first Japanese emperor to stand down in more than 200 years.
Akihito, who will now be known as Emperor Emeritus, had endeared himself to many Japanese people during his reign through his interactions with those suffering from disease and disaster.
In his speech, Emperor Naruhito paid tribute to his father while pledging to show the same devotion to his people.
“[Akihito] showed profound compassion through his own bearing,” he said.
“I swear that I will reflect deeply on the course followed by the Emperor Emeritus … and fulfil my responsibility as the symbol of the state and of the unity of the people of Japan.”
Naruhito technically became emperor at the stroke of midnight when his father’s reign came to an end – marking the start of the new Reiwa era.
But on Wednesday morning his place was formalised as he symbolically took possession of the sacred imperial regalia – a sword and a gem – that have been passed down through the generations.