On 7 January 1989, Hirohito, the 124th Emperor of Japan, died in his sleep at 6:33 am after suffering from intestinal cancer for some time. He was 87. The late emperor was buried near his parents at the Musashi Imperial Graveyard in Hachiōji, Tokyo.

On Friday, 24 February the Emperor Shōwa's state funeral was held, and unlike that of his predecessor, although formal it was not conducted in a strictly Shinto manner. It was a funeral carefully designed both as a tribute to the late Emperor and as a showcase for the peaceful, affluent society into which Japan had developed during Hirohito's reign.

An estimated 200,000 people lined the site of the procession – far fewer than the 860,000 that officials had projected. The Shōwa Tennō's funeral was attended by some 10,000 official guests, including emissaries from 163 nations and 27 international organizations.

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