• Kyodo

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A ceremony was held Friday on the Imperial Palace grounds to mark the start of construction of the temporary halls to be used in a key imperial succession rite this fall.

Emperor Naruhito, who acceded the throne on May 1, must take part in a series of rituals accompanying the succession, including the Great Thanksgiving Ceremony, known as Daijosai, on Nov. 14 and 15.

In Friday’s ceremony in the palace’s East Gardens, palace attendants in traditional attire offered rice and sake to wish for the smooth completion of the Daijokyu Halls, where the ceremony will take place. The halls are expected to be completed in October.

The Daijosai is performed by a new emperor once during his reign. The emperor will offer newly harvested rice to his imperial ancestors and the deities of heaven and earth, while also consuming the rice himself, and pray for peace and abundant harvests for the country and its people.

Given the Daijosai’s religious nature, there has been criticism that it is publicly funded given the Constitution’s stipulation on the separation of state and religion.

But the government has decided to follow the example of the previous imperial succession and pay for the expenses out of state coffers, determining that it is a public ceremony.

A total of about ¥2.7 billion is expected to be spent for activities related to this year’s ceremony, according to the government.

The Imperial Household Agency has made efforts to slash the cost of the construction of the halls, including reducing the size of the ground they occupy by more than 20 percent compared with the last time the ceremony was held.

Major construction company Shimizu Corp. won the bid for the project, costing it at ¥957 million, or some 60 percent of the projected price of ¥1.54 billion.

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