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Subject: Funeral Held for Japan's Prince Takamado

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Date Posted: November 29, 2002 2:28:06 EDT

Japan's royal family, government officials, foreign dignitaries and the public gathered to mourn the death of Prince Takamado in a funeral high in religious ritual Friday.

The guests filed somberly to bow before the coffin as a lonely echo of a Japanese flute wafted through "Renso-no-gi," which means "funeral and entombment ceremony," at the Toshimagaoka Cemetery.

The Imperial Household Agency said 814 guests attended the ceremony. Later the public will also be able to pay their respects, and a long line of mourners was growing by noon.

Takamado no Miya--Emperor Akihito's cousin and seventh in line to the Chrysanthemum Throne--collapsed during a squash lesson at the Canadian Embassy in Tokyo on Nov. 21.

The prince--a soccer fan, cellist, dance critic and promoter of international exchange--was taken to a hospital where he died of heart failure hours later. He was 47.

At the ceremony, televised nationwide, a priest of Japan's Shinto religion, wearing a pointed hat and white robes, read a mourning statement.

Rice, rolls of cloth, rice wine, vegetables and fish were placed in front of the coffin as offerings.

"I think it's a terrible loss. He was the kind of person who would be the first to try things out," said Masako Nara, a 64-year-old housewife, who traveled for several hours from Yamanashi state to attend the funeral.

Among those at the funeral were Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, Finance Minister Masajuro Shiokawa, Crown Prince Naruhito and his wife Masako and other members of the royal family.

The prince's remains will be cremated and buried at the cemetery where the graves of royal family except for the emperor and empress are kept.

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