chapter  14
The Start of a New Era
Pages 9

The ceremony was quite short and very simple. It was held in the State Hall of the Palace, its screens opening on to a gallery to reveal two large shrine-like thrones. Each throne was on a dais of black lacquer, with an ornate curtained canopy decorated with gold phoenixes and with mirrors. Broad steps led down to a large rectangular courtyard covered in fine white gravel, a cherry tree on one side and a citrus on the other. Seated round three sides facing the State Hall 2,500 visitors had an excellent view of tall silk banners in bright colours rippling in the sunshine against a perfect blue sky. Ceremonial swords, bows, quivers, shields, gongs and drums were carried in by bearers, attendants and guards who sat on stools wearing traditional costumes in black, red and deep blue, their stiff head-dresses tied under the chin curling suitably backwards. Then in complete silence we rose as the emperor slowly processed along the gallery with his chamberlains and took his place on his throne. His robe was rust-coloured like the first colour of the rising sun, worn over white trousers and wooden shoes with embroidered covers. His 'coronet' ~bosht) was plain black, the tall stiffened silk pennant the only one to stand upright. Behind him the empress followed to her throne,

The following days brought a hectic round of visits for us all, from remembrance service to museum and hospital, garden party to Honda assembly line, meetings with the embassy staff and the Japan-British Society, business forum to opera. The prime minister's banquet at the New Otani Hotel was an unforgettable occasion with its illustrious guest list, glittering dresses, beautifully understated kimonos, performances of Kabuki and Noh, delicious food and a most memorable Margaux wine.