Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko will be cremated after they die, a historic change from some 350 years in which ritual burials were the norm for monarchs and their spouses from the early Edo Period, Imperial Household Agency chief Noriyuki Kazaoka said Thursday.
The agency also plans for the couple’s mausoleums to be smaller than those of the previous emperors and empresses, Kazaoka told reporters.
The agency had been considering changing the funeral rites since April last year after the Emperor and Empress expressed their wish to be cremated.
Although the agency had considered placing the ashes of Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko in the same mausoleum following cremation, the Empress humbly declined that, according to the agency.
Their mausoleums will be built side by side in an integrated fashion on the west side of that of Emperor Taisho in the Musashiryo Imperial Cemetery in Hachioji, western Tokyo.
The mausoleums, with a dome-shaped knoll on a square base, will have an area of some 3,500 sq. meters, about 80 percent of the 4,300 sq. meters of the grave of the Emperor’s parents, Emperor Hirohito and Empress Nagako, known posthumously as Emperor Showa and Empress Kojun.
Torii and worship facilities will be built for each of the mausoleums. Dedicated crematory facilities will be built in the cemetery.
When the Emperor or Empress dies, a ceremony corresponding to a wake for common Japanese will be held at a temporary Imperial mortuary to be built at the Imperial Palace in a traditional manner.
Before cremation, a new and relatively small-scale funeral rite will be held. After cremation, a new charnel house will be built at the same place.
The agency will consider where to hold a ceremony corresponding to a funeral for common people, as the Emperor and Empress are calling for consideration of the impact on the public and the environment.
An Imperial funeral for the Emperor was not subject to the agency’s review because the Cabinet is responsible for the event.