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World Leaders Pay Respects at Hirohito Rites : THE FUNERAL OF EMPEROR HIROHITO

February 24, 1989|KARL SCHOENBERGER | Times Staff Writer and

TOKYO — Emperor Hirohito, a man once despised by much of the world as the symbol of ruthless Japanese military aggression, was honored by the international community today as kings, presidents and other representatives of 163 countries attended his elaborate state funeral.

More than 250,000 mourners braved a cold rain to line streets in the center of Tokyo this morning as the imperial hearse and its motorcade moved along the route from the Imperial Palace to Shinjuku Gyoen, a park where two funeral ceremonies--one religious and one secular--were held before about 10,000 guests, including President Bush and several hundred other foreign dignitaries.

The cortege left the palace gates to the thunder of a 21-gun salute by a military honor guard. Bands played "Kanashimi-no Kiwami," or the "Height of Sorrow," funeral music played only for the imperial family, at 10 sites along the 4-mile route. Uniformed police blanketed the area, providing tight security to guard against guerrilla attacks by radicals who had threatened to disrupt the ceremonies and warning mourners to watch their step on the slippery pavement.

Although minor, peaceful demonstrations against the emperor system were scheduled at two locations in the city, the only notable incident occurred later in the day when an explosion on an embankment scattered dirt on the highway shortly before the motorcade carrying the emperor's body passed by en route to the imperial mausoleum outside Tokyo. A police official blamed radicals for the blast, which failed to disrupt the motorcade.

Red and white rising-sun flags topped with black bunting were displayed at public buildings throughout central Tokyo, while nearly all stores and businesses were closed to observe a national holiday. The mood of the crowds viewing the cortege of 40 black sedans was subdued and reverent.

"I'm filled with deep sadness," said Masuji Shimizu, a woman wearing a kimono and hoisting a purple umbrella who watched the procession from the curb in the Akasaka district. "This emperor helped us through such a long period of time, and I came out in the rain to shed tears of gratitude."

The marathon series of ceremonies, which began at 7:30 with a private ritual in the palace, was scheduled to continue for more than 13 hours, culminating with Hirohito's entombment tonight at an imperial burial ground on the outskirts of Tokyo.

The main rites were held at a simple funeral hall built of cypress in the traditional Shinto style, the Sojoden , while guests, dressed in morning coats or other black clothing, looked on from two long, white tents in a clearing at the wooded Shinjuku Gyoen.

A solemn procession of attendants dressed in gray classical Japanese court costume, flanked by soldiers in dress uniform, carried Hirohito's 990-pound coffin in a black lacquer palanquin before the start of the religious part of the observances, called the Sojoden-no Gi. Court musicians played ethereal strains on flutes, panpipes and drums as the retinue walked slowly, holding yellow and white imperial banners, portable shrines and two sacred sakaki trees. The new emperor, Akihito, Empress Michiko and Crown Prince Naruhito followed.

Once the coffin was enshrined in the Sojoden, Torahko Nagazumi, a childhood friend of Hirohito, presided over a Shinto ceremony in which ritual offerings--food and silk brocade--were made before an altar while a band and choir played and sang "Ruika," a traditional song of mourning.

Nagazumi delivered a eulogy, followed by Emperor Akihito's onrui remarks of mourning. Members of the imperial family paid last respects before a black funeral curtain was closed.

Then, to satisfy the constitutional separation of church and state, a sacred torii gate was removed from a spot before the altar along with other religious artifacts. With the reopening of the curtain, Chief Cabinet Secretary Keizo Obuchi declared the beginning of the secular half of the services, the Taiso-no Rei .

Minute of Silence at Noon

At noon, Akihito led the nation in a minute of silence. Prime Minister Noboru Takeshita and other government leaders delivered words of condolence, and guests at the ceremony, broadcast live on nationwide television, stepped forward to bow and pay tribute to the man who reigned through 62 years of war, devastation, economic reconstruction and burgeoning affluence before dying of cancer Jan. 7 at age 87.

The state-sponsored funeral, which government officials said cost an estimated $80 million, was carried out amid much controversy. Critics said the ceremonies blurred the distinction between Hirohito's role as symbolic head of state in Japan's postwar democracy and his status as the chief priest--once considered semi-divine--of the Shinto religion.

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