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Elaborate throne for Japan's next emperor arrives in Tokyo

TOKYO (AP) -- The monumental imperial throne for the coronation of Japan's new emperor has arrived in Tokyo from an ancient imperial palace in Kyoto more than a year ahead of time, officials said Wednesday.

Crown Prince Naruhito will become Japan's next emperor on May 1 of next year, the day after his 84-year-old father, Emperor Akihito, abdicates.

The Takamikura throne will be used at a ceremony in October 2019, when Naruhito formally announces his succession. Naruhito will ascend to the elevated, octagonal structure to proclaim his enthronement before selected guests from around the world.

The 6.5-meter-high (21-foot-high) canopied structure, decorated with lacquerware, gold and other ornaments, has been used for coronations and other key imperial rituals since around the eighth century, according to the Imperial Household Agency. It was last used by Akihito in 1990 and has since been stashed away at the Kyoto palace.

The structure was taken apart for its delivery to Tokyo, where it will be repaired, fine-tuned and reassembled by March, the palace said. It comes with a similar structure for Naruhito's wife, Masako, the next empress. Together, the structures are made up of 3,000 parts.

The 58-year-old Naruhito will be the 126th emperor of one of the world's oldest monarchies. He will be Japan's first emperor born after World War II.

The current structure was built for his great-grandfather Taisho's coronation in 1915 and was also used for his grandfather Hirohito, who was revered as the god of Shinto until the end of World War II, which Japan fought in his name.

At the time of Akihito's coronation, the throne had to be airlifted by a Japanese Self-Defense Force helicopter in a highly secretive operation amid protests by extremists who said the throne's use in a state ceremony violated the constitutional separation of state and religion.

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