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Work to demolish Empress Michiko’s former home in Shinagawa Ward, Tokyo, began Thursday morning, despite strong opposition from local residents that delayed the work by one day.

Vehicles with construction materials entered the premises through the main entrance at around 7 a.m., before opponents had assembled there. Some two hours later, the gate was covered with white plastic sheets to hide the house from view.

There was little disturbance, even though some 20 people came to the gate and shouted “This is the Empress’ former home. Please stop this work.”

Asako Toba, 66, of Yokohama wiped away tears as she said, “Do you realize how much the Shoda house, where the Empress once lived, has given courage to the Japanese people over the years?”

Attempts to start the work Wednesday were foiled as protesters stood in front of the gate and refused to let construction workers through.

The 70-year-old, mock-Tudor-style house was handed over to the Finance Ministry in 1999 after the death of the Empress’ father, Hidesaburo Shoda, in lieu of an inheritance tax payment.

After tearing the house down, the ministry will sell the land to Shinagawa Ward in line with the local government’s plan to create a park there.

In early November, the Imperial Household Agency said the Empress did not want the home preserved.

Several local residents, however, have remained opposed to the demolition project.

The Empress, the wife of Emperor Akihito, was born in October 1934 as Michiko Shoda.

The Shoda family founded Nisshin Flour Milling Co., now Nisshin Seifun Group Inc., in 1907.

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