The Emperor decorated the top 17 recipients of spring awards, including former House of Representatives Speaker Soichiro Ito, in a ceremony Tuesday at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo.

Soichiro Ito bows as he receives an award from the Emperor, while Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi looks on.

Ito, 77, received the Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun, Paulownia Flowers, the highest decoration bestowed this time. The decoration is the third-highest in the 11-rank order.

The fourth-ranking Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun was given to five people — Junzo Iwasaki, 77, former head of the Management and Coordination Agency, former Labor Minister Sadatoshi Ozato, 70, former Health and Welfare Minister Takao Fujimoto, 70, former Posts and Telecommunications Minister Hisao Horinouchi, 76, and Japan Medical Association President Eitaka Tsuboi, 72.

Eleven people received the Grand Cordon of the Order of the Sacred Treasure. Shinroku Morohashi, 78, former president of Mitsubishi Corp., Wataru Mori, 75, former University of Tokyo president, were among them.

The Emperor presented the decorations to each recipient and Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi gave each a diploma.

Ito, representing the recipients, told the Emperor there is no greater honor for them than the orders.

The Emperor said he was deeply grateful for the recipients’ longtime hard work, which he said contributed to the nation, society and people.

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