THE last funeral of a Japanese Emperor was 62 years ago, when the Emperor Taisho was put to rest. The funeral of his son will hew closely to tradition, making only some concessions to the modern nation Japan has become. Tomorrow morning, the center of Tokyo will be hushed. All traffic will be completely barred and shops will be closed.
A hearse bearing the coffin will depart for the Imperial Garden from the Imperial Palace, in a procedure differing from that used in 1927 only in the substitution of an automobile for the oxen which pulled Emperor Taisho's coffin. At the Imperial Garden, the coffin will be hand carried by some 50 people to the funeral hall. Retainers will carry banners and two sacred trees for the traditional Shinto ceremony.
The entire procession will be clad in traditional dress. Only Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko will wear Western clothes.
Inside the funeral hall, the Shinto funeral ceremony of the Imperial family will be performed first. Offerings of foods and silk fabric will be placed before the coffin.
No priests will be present for the ceremony, as is traditional. The rite ends after Emperor Akihito walks under the torii, the wooden gate of a Shinto shrine, and gives a mourning address. Unlike the archaic court Japanese used by Hirohito in 1927 - unintelligible to average Japanese - the new Emperor will speak in modern Japanese.
The trees and torii will be removed before the state funeral which follows, as a gesture of respect for the constitutional separation of church and state. The government's interpretation of the ceremony asserts that the first part is a private family event, though witnessed by all present.
This thin wall of separation has posed a dilemma for many, including the opposition parties. The Communists will boycott the funeral. The Japan Socialist Party wants to attend only the latter part, but the government says that is impractical. They are searching for a compromise. The Buddhist-linked Komei Party will sit through the imperial ceremony ``just to wait,'' says a party spokesman, until the state funeral starts.