Japan's Emperor Naruhito hosts tea party for foreign royals

Japanese Emperor Naruhito is hosting a tea party at his residence for royals from other countries, thanking them for celebrating his enthronement at a palace ceremony the day before

TOKYO -- Japanese Emperor Naruhito hosted a tea party at his residence for royals from other countries on Wednesday, thanking them for celebrating his enthronement the day before.

Naruhito proclaimed his succession in a ritual-laden ceremony Tuesday at the Imperial Palace. He pledged to serve his constitutional role as a symbol of the state for his people, while staying close and standing by them.

Naruhito and his wife, Masako, greeted the royal guests with hugs or handshakes as they arrived at the tea party they hosted at their Akasaka Imperial residence.

Guests included Swedish King Carl XVI Gustaf, Grand Duke of Luxembourg Henri, Malaysian King Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah, Brunei's King Hassanal Bolkiah and Prince Albert II of Monaco, as well as their spouses. King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima of the Netherlands and Danish Crown Prince Frederick and his wife, Mary, were also present.

Other members of the Japanese imperial family also joined the party, including Naruhito's abdicated father, Akihito, and his wife, former Empress Michiko, palace officials said. The elder couple did not attend Tuesday's ceremony as a clear message of their retirement.

Naruhito's succession rituals are not finished yet. A parade originally planned for Tuesday afternoon has been rescheduled for next month due to a deadly typhoon that hit central and northern Japan. Naruhito will also perform a highly religious and divisive harvest ritual in mid-November.

The series of costly ceremonies, critics say, are largely designed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's ultra-conservative government to restore emperor worshipping, which is closely tied to the Shinto religion, as a political tool.