The Japanese government decided Wednesday to cancel court banquets to be held in April for Crown Prince Fumihito in celebration of his elevation to first in line to the Chrysanthemum Throne, as the new coronavirus continues to spread.

The crown prince was scheduled to hold the buffet-style banquets for some 750 international guests on April 21 after formally announcing his new status in a ceremony on April 19.

"We were left with no choice but to decide on the cancellation from the standpoint of containing the spread of the virus," Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said at a meeting on imperial succession ceremonies, noting that numerous participants will eat, drink and converse in a close range in a closed space.

The banquets were part of the ceremonies for the proclamation of the crown prince, known as "Rikkoshi no rei," which will be the last in a series of ceremonies held for the imperial succession after former Emperor Akihito abdicated on April 30 last year, the first by a Japanese emperor in over 200 years.

His subsequent enthronement left three heirs to the throne -- the crown prince, the crown prince's 13-year-old son Prince Hisahito, and Prince Hitachi, the 84-year-old uncle of Emperor Naruhito.

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