A Shinto ceremony yesterday marked the completion of a new residence for Japan's Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko. But the Emperor himself, inexplicably, did not attend.

(Photograph omitted)

TOKYO (AFP) - A Shinto ceremony yesterday marked the completion of a new residence for Japan's Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko. But the Emperor himself, inexplicably, did not attend.

The 54,000-sq-ft residence, which cost dollars 45m ( pounds 28m) of public money to build, has 62 rooms. Official function rooms, including a 1,200-sq-ft reception hall, combine Japanese aesthetics and Western comfort. Palace sources said the building cost about dollars 5m to furnish. Residents of chronically overcrowded Tokyo can only look on in envy. The average home here has a floor space of 650sq ft.

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