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Give 'em shell: turtles stick neck out for Japan rice forecast

TOKYO: In an ancient ceremony that occurs handiest as soon as each and every imperial technology, Japanese palace courtiers in conventional gowns and hats decided on Monday the place highest to grow royal rice -- the usage of shells from endangered turtles.

Two skinny plates made from turtle shells have been heated over a flame to supply cracks then used to determine the place rice should be grown for a key autumn ceremony presided over via new emperor Naruhito.

The cracks "told" officers to grow the rice in the ancient capital of Kyoto and north of Tokyo in Tochigi prefecture.

For the ceremony -- which Naruhito didn't attend -- officers clad in long black gowns and ornate black hats have been noticed strolling slowly right into a striped tent.

The rare ritual is carried out handiest after a brand new emperor takes the throne. It was once closing noticed in 1990 about a 12 months after Naruhito's father, Akihito, ascended the Chrysanthemum Throne.

While the shells are harvested from rare green sea turtles, they are procured as a part of a conservation scheme, officers mentioned.

The turtles come from the Ogasawara, a Pacific island chain that lies 1,000 kilometres (600 miles) south of central Tokyo however is administratively a part of the capital.

People in the area have been consuming sea turtles for the reason that mid-19th century and are allowed to catch up to 135 of them every year.

Around 100 turtles are used for meat -- incessantly consumed uncooked -- whilst the shells are used for craft gadgets.

Eggs are harvested from the others to keep the population stable and controlled. These turtles are then launched again into the ocean.

Shells from 8 turtles are supplied to the palace however they aren't killed particularly for the ritual.

Ogasawara the town official Takeshi Ando informed AFP that "earnest conservation efforts" have been being made, noting that the collection of eggs hatched there was once expanding.

The village handiest catches big turtles with shells bigger than 75 centimetres (30 inches) as mandated via the Tokyo metropolitan govt, he added.

A palace spokesman mentioned the tradition were in place "since ancient times".

The palace "must pass this on (to the future)" even if it is mindful that some imagine it should now not use the endangered animal, he informed AFP.

Many on Japanese social media voiced surprise over the ancient rite.

"Too rare and too much fun to make a decision by fortune-telling with turtle shells in modern-day Japan," mentioned one tweet.

Another Twitter person wrote: "I feel sorry for green sea turtles even though they were not killed only for their shells. We should carry on this tradition with something else."

The rice grown in the decided on provinces will probably be utilized in a ceremony in mid-November, the place the emperor will give thanks and pray for wealthy harvests, as well as peace for the rustic and folks.

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