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In an ancient ceremony that occurs only once every imperial era, Japanese palace courtiers in traditional robes and hats decided on Monday where best to grow royal rice—using shells from endangered turtles.
Two thin plates made from turtle shells were heated over a flame to produce cracks then used to determine where rice should be grown for a key autumn ceremony presided over by new emperor Naruhito.
Cracks - Officials - Rice - Capital - Kyoto
The cracks "told" officials to grow the rice in the ancient capital of Kyoto and north of Tokyo in Tochigi prefecture.
For the ceremony—which Naruhito did not attend—officials clad in long black robes and ornate black hats were seen walking slowly into a striped tent.
Ritual - Emperor - Throne - Year - Naruhito
The rare ritual is conducted only after a new emperor takes the throne. It was last seen in 1990 about a year after Naruhito's father, Akihito, ascended the Chrysanthemum Throne.
While the shells are harvested from rare green sea turtles, they are procured as part of a conservation scheme, officials said.
Turtles - Ogasawara - Pacific - Island - Chain
The turtles come from the Ogasawara, a Pacific island chain that lies 1,000 kilometres (600 miles) south of central Tokyo but is administratively part of the capital.
People in the region have been eating sea turtles since the mid-19th century and are allowed to catch up to 135 of them annually.
Turtles - Meat—often - Shells
Around 100 turtles are used for meat—often consumed raw—while the shells...
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