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The BBC's Charles Scanlon in Tokyo
"The first in a series of elaborate rituals"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 25 July, 2000, 08:34 GMT 09:34 UK
Japan mourns Empress Nagako
Emperor Akihito bows as his mother's hearse departs
Emperor Akihito bows as his mother's hearse departs
By Charles Scanlon in Tokyo

The funeral of Japan's Empress Dowager Nagako, who died last month at the age of 97, has taken place in Tokyo.

One thousand people, including members of the imperial family, government leaders and foreign diplomats attended the funeral service.

Emperor Akihito led a series of elaborate funeral ceremonies for his mother.

They were conducted according to the rites of Japan's native Shinto religion, of which the Emperor is high priest.

'Traumatic era'

A procession of mourners followed the hearse as it entered the gates of the imperial cemetery in Tokyo.

The imperial family attending the funeral ceremonies
The imperial family attending the funeral ceremonies
The Empress Dowager's coffin is being placed in a mausoleum near that of her late husband, the Emperor Hirohito.

Several hundred people gathered outside the gates of the cemetery to pay their respects.

One said the death of the Empress Dowager marked the end of a traumatic era.

During her lifetime she saw Japan emerge as a great power, then its devastation by war and its re-emergence as the world's second largest economy.

Cloistered life

Empress Nagako married the then Crown Prince Hirohito in 1924, two years before he ascended the throne.

Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori
Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori was among the 1,000 who paid their respects
She was from an aristocratic family that had traditionally provided brides for the emperors.

Little was seen of her during the last 20 years of her life.

She was believed to have been plagued by illness and she lived a cloistered life within the grounds of the imperial palace in the centre of Tokyo.

For many younger Japanese she was a remote figure.

Even older people know little of her life and personality but she was noted for her dedication to the traditional Japanese arts and for her devotion to her husband.

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