The people are cheering – and the law enforcement services show all their skills
Everyone who knows my postings about the audiences of the Heisei Tennō on the occasion of his birthdays (they can be found here and here) knows that these events are not just mere mortals’ opportunities to enter the grounds of the Imperial Palace in Tōkyō, but also to get at least a little bit closer to the Emperor himself. At the same time, the imperial audiences are also very impressively demonstrating how carefully such events are being planned and prepared in Japan and how much organisational skill must be put into practice by the law enforcement authorities in order to “channel” the masses of people that usually show up on such occasions. And of course, there is also a considerable portion of that almost proverbial “Japanese discipline” that one has to consider – it does not really come as a surprise that such major events go off without a hitch.
On May 4, 2019, the day of the first general audiences of the new Emperor Naruhito, who had been enthroned on May 1, 2019, it was no different. There were a total of six audiences, granted at hourly intervals from 10 o’clock in the morning to 3 o’clock in the afternoon (each with a different “cast” on the audience balcony). Those general audiences attracted a total of 141,000 visitors. And thanks to the vast area available in the outer gardens of the Imperial Palace, these masses could be channelled in the smoothest way possible – not only to two checkpoints (one for hand luggage control and one for body searches), but also guided to the appropriate “waiting positions” in adequate “portions”. And while being guided through that course, everyone had the chance to grab a Japanese flag.
And since all of this (unlike audiences granted at the birthdays of the Heisei Emperor and his New Year’s greetings) took place at almost summerly spring temperatures, the waiting time of just under 2 ½ hours (other groups were said to have been queueing up over three hours ) was quite entertaining.
As with other general audiences, the palace grounds were accessed via the main gate (Nijūbashi) and then left via the other gates of the site – hence, there was no contraflow in the movements of the masses.
In addition to the pictures to be seen here, I have also taken a technically not very sophisticated video clip of the event (camera work out of the crowds, is an art that not everyone knows how to handle…).