Jair Bolsonaro Honors Japan as only Americas Leader at Emperor’s Enthronement

Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro arrives at the Imperial Palace for the court banquet in Tokyo on October 22, 2019. - Japan's Emperor Naruhito completed his ascension to the Chrysanthemum throne on October 22 in a ceremony steeped in the traditions and grandeur of a monarchy that claims 2,000 years of …
PIERRE EMMANUEL DELETREE/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil attended the formal enthronement of Japanese Emperor Naruhito on Tuesday as the only head of state representing North or South America.

Bolsonaro, a conservative seeking closer trade ties and diplomatic cooperation with the government of Japan, attended the ceremony as the first formal occasion of a trip spanning five Asian countries: Japan, China, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Qatar, and Saudi Arabia.

“It is a pleasure to be the only leader of the American continent present at the enthronement ceremony of the new Japanese emperor, Naruhito,” Bolsonaro wrote on Twitter, adding an accompanying video of his arrival to the ceremony. While he was the only leader of his hemisphere in attendance, other heads of state also took part in the 2,000-strong foreign delegation. Bolsonaro met with one of them, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, shortly after the ceremony.

“In meeting with world leaders and businesspeople on this occasion, we also brought the new Brazil to the president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky,” Bolsonaro wrote. Zelensky appears in the video meeting with Bolsonaro, as well, though neither side offered details on what was discussed at that meeting.

Just as Brazil seeking more trade with Japan, Zelensky told reporters Kyiv is hoping for more Brazilian investment in Ukraine.

“Brazil is our main trading partner in Latin America. I welcome the expansion of Brazilian companies in Ukraine and Ukrainian ones in Brazil,” Zelensky said. He added that his administration was seeking to remove the government from business and de-nationalize companies brought into the state fold by past presidents. Bolsonaro also reportedly agreed to visit Ukraine next year and invited Zelensky to visit Brazil at his convenience.

Zelensky and Bolsonaro joined presidents Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines, Ashraf Ghani of Afghanistan, Felix Tshisekedi of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya, among others, as the heads of state in attendance. Several Latin American nations, including Colombia and Uruguay, send their foreign ministers. The United States sent Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao. Embattled Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam also attended the ceremony in Tokyo.

Naruhito officially became emperor six months ago following the abdication of his father, Akihito. He acquired the formal powers in a short ceremony at the time, but had not yet performed the extended traditional Sokuirei-Seiden-no-Gi ceremony. According to Japan’s Asahi Shimbun, Naruhito’s extended ceremony featured a proclamation that a new emperor has arisen to the world. Japan has used the same ceremony to receive an emperor for nearly 2,000 years.

“I pledge hereby that I shall act according to the Constitution and fulfill my responsibility as the symbol of the state and of the unity of the people of Japan, while always wishing for the happiness of the people and the peace of the world, turning my thoughts to the people and standing by them,” Naruhito said on Tuesday in completing the ceremony to ascend to the Chrysanthemum throne.

Following the ceremony, Bolsonaro is expected to meet with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Brazilians living in Japan. He planned his Japanese itinerary to ensure at least one night on Monday to explore Tokyo, where he was allowed some time to roam freely as few locals identified him as the Brazilian head of state, reportedly stopping at the Meiji Shinto shrine. Bolsonaro admitted to reporters that he was wary of the raw fish typical in a Japanese diet and ended up at a Tokyo diner for his evening meal on Monday. One of his goals in meeting with Abe will be to enhance trade ties with Japan, encouraging the prime minister to consider importing Brazilian beef and pork. Bolsonaro reportedly joked that he would not eat meat in Japan until the government agreed to import Brazilian meat.

The banquet following Naruhito’s coronation reportedly featured alternative “Western” dishes for dignitaries not open to exploring traditional Japanese food. The Japanese dinner included “grilled young seabream, salt steamed abalone, and a soup of Japanese spiny lobster and ‘matsutake’ mushrooms.”

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