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Public Gets Look at Hirohito’s Tomb

February 27, 1989

HACHIOJI, Japan (AP) _ Thousands of mourners went to the hillside tomb of Emperor Hirohito to pray today, the first day the imperial cemetery was opened to the public since his burial.

Under blue skies and against a backdrop of pine and cedar trees, about 7,000 people visited the cemetery, bowing their heads and clapping twice before Hirohito’s tomb in the traditional gestures of worship at shrines of Japan’s Shinto religion.

Hirohito died of cancer on Jan. 7 at age 87. Posthumously known as Emperor Showa, he was commemorated Friday in a state funeral in Tokyo attended by representatives of 164 countries, including President Bush. Later the same day, he was entombed in the Musashi Imperial Cemetery, a wooded enclave in these foothills about 30 miles west of Tokyo.

Only palace officials and members of the imperial family took part in the entombment ceremony, deeply steeped in ancient Shinto rites and carried out to the strains of classical court music from wind instruments and gongs.

Today, about 40 mourners, including 15 members of a group described by guards as rightists loyal to the emperor, were the first to enter the site of Hirohito’s tomb with their heads bowed and coats removed.

One young rightist wore a headband with a red rising sun in the style of World War II kamikaze pilots who flew suicide missions in the name of the emperor.

Another mourner, 63-year-old Masae Yamamoto, said he came from Tokyo with mixed feelings.

″I spent the last two years of the (past) war at the front and ... I have some reservations about the emperor’s responsibility for the war.″

He added, however, ″After the difficult years of rebuilding the country, I also feel I share a common experience with the emperor and find myself feeling nostalgic after his passing.″

The cemetery will close again at the end of March to allow completion of the emperor’s mausoleum. It will be covered in stone and landscaped over the next year.

Many visitors took photographs of the tomb and surrounding hills. They then strolled over to the mausoleums of Hirohito’s parents, Emperor Taisho and Empress Teimei, to pay their respects there as well.

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