A group of local residents said Thursday they will start raising money to buy the former family home of Empress Michiko to prevent it from being torn down by the government this month.

The house in Shinagawa Ward, Tokyo, was offered to the government after the Empress’ father, Hidesaburo Shoda, died in June 1999, in lieu of an inheritance tax payment.

The Finance Ministry has rejected calls from local residents to preserve the house, saying that the bidding to select firms to do the demolition work was carried out on Friday, and that it will carry out its plans to tear down the house and auction off the land as planned.

“We desperately want to preserve the building, which is our heart and soul,” Ikuo Sumi, a representative of the group, told reporters in front of the Western-style house. “We don’t want the Finance Ministry to make the Empress cry.”

The group aims to raise 350 million yen from across the country before the house, some 70 years old, is razed.

Meanwhile, the town of Karuizawa, Nagano Prefecture, a traditional summer resort for the Imperial family, may try to acquire the house, according to town officials.

The town government is expected to ask the Finance Ministry as early as next week to allow it to move the house to the town and preserve it there, they said.

“Reflecting Karuizawa’s close ties with the Imperial family and the Shoda family, residents of Karuizawa have repeatedly asked the town to take steps to preserve the house. The town is very enthusiastic about this project,” Mayor Masayoshi Sato was quoted as saying Wednesday.

The town is reportedly willing to shoulder the cost of moving and reassembling the house.

Vice Finance Minister Toshiro Muto said the ministry would listen to the proposal and deal with the matter appropriately.

Vice Finance Minister Toshiro Muto told a regular news conference Thursday that the ministry would listen to the town’s proposal and deal with the matter appropriately.

Empress Michiko was born in October 1934 as Michiko Shoda. The Shoda family founded Nisshin Flour Milling Co., Japan’s largest flour miller, in 1907. The company is currently called Nisshin Seifun Group Inc.

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