The Latest: Trump congratulates Japanese Emperor Naruhito

President Donald Trump has congratulated Japanese Emperor Naruhito on his enthronement

The Latest on Japanese Emperor Naruhito's enthronement ceremony (all times local):

12:15 a.m. Wednesday

President Donald Trump has congratulated Japanese Emperor Naruhito on his enthronement.

The White House said in a statement that the president and first lady Melania Trump offer their "warmest congratulations" to the people of Japan on the occasion. Trump said Naruhito's imperial era comes at a time the bonds between the two allies "have never been stronger."

Naruhito on Tuesday proclaimed his enthronement in an ancient palace ritual before 2,000 guests from around the world.

Trump was the first state guest of Naruhito when he and the first lady visited Japan in May just weeks after the succession.

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9:40 p.m. Tuesday

Japanese Emperor Naruhito and his wife, Masako, are hosting a palace banquet for some 400 guests including foreign royals and dignitaries following his enthronement ceremony.

Naruhito changed into a formal tailcoat decorated with medals, while Masako wore a long white dress and a tiara. They greeted their guests before they started a seated dinner of Japanese cuisine.

Guests included Prince Charles of Britain and U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao.

Earlier Tuesday, Naruhito, dressed in a traditional costume, proclaimed himself as Japan's 126th emperor at the Imperial Palace, months after he succeeded the Chrysanthemum Throne in May after his father abdicated.

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8:45 p.m.

Hundreds of well-wishers have gathered outside of the Imperial Palace in Tokyo to celebrate Japanese Emperor Naruhito's enthronement, waving flags, some of them shouting "Banzai!" almost in sync with the ceremony that they monitored on their smartphones.

Many people lined up on the sidewalk waiting for Naruhito's royal car to pass as he went to and from the palace for the ceremony.

Earlier Tuesday, Naruhito proclaimed his enthronement at the Imperial Palace, where he was congratulated by three cheers of "Banzai!" from the audience.

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1:20 p.m.

Japan's Emperor Naruhito has proclaimed his ascension to the Chrysanthemum Throne at a palace ceremony.

Tuesday's enthronement ceremony is the high point of succession rituals and confirms his succession in May after his father Akihito abdicated. Naruhito is the 126th emperor in the world's oldest hereditary monarchy that historians say dates back 1,500 years.

The ceremony serves to showcase the monarchy to win public support and to preserve Japan's cultural heritage.

It's also an occasion for diplomacy. Some 2,000 guests, including foreign dignitaries, were invited from in and outside the country.

Naruhito and his wife Masako, a Harvard-educated former diplomat, visited three sacred shrines at the palace to report to the Shinto gods earlier Tuesday ahead of the key ceremony.

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12:30 p.m.

Japan's government has pardoned about 550,000 people convicted of petty crimes to mark Emperor Naruhito's enthronement ceremony.

The measure, approved by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's Cabinet last week, was published Tuesday in the special edition of the daily official gazette.

Emperor Naruhito is to proclaim his May 1 succession to the Chrysanthemum Throne in a palace ceremony later Tuesday.

The pardons cover those who committed petty crimes such as traffic violations and election fraud.

The pre-war custom of clemency by the emperor has triggered criticism as being undemocratic and politically motivated. At the time of former emperor Akihito's enthronement, 2.5 million people were given amnesty.

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9 a.m.

Japan's Emperor Naruhito is visiting three Shinto shrines at the Imperial Palace before proclaiming himself Japan's emperor in an enthronement ceremony.

The 59-year-old emperor put on a white robe and prayed at "Kashikodokoro" and two other shrines. The visits Tuesday morning are to report to gods ahead of the ceremony, to be attended by 2,000 guests from in and outside Japan.

The enthronement ceremony the high point of succession rituals that began in May when Naruhito succeeded the Chrysanthemum Throne as Japan's 126th emperor after the abdication of his father, Akihito.

The proclamation event is largely meant to allow the government to showcase the monarchy to win public support and to preserve Japan's cultural heritage.

Naruhito and his wife Masako, a Harvard-educated former diplomat, will host a banquet later Tuesday.