Empress Masako fed mulberry leaves to silkworms at the Imperial Palace on Monday, marking her first act of sericulture, an imperial tradition passed down since the late 19th century.

At a ceremony called "Goyosan Hajime no Gi" held to mark the start of the year's silk-farming activities, Empress Masako fed shredded mulberry leaves to silkworms at the Momijiyama Imperial Cocoonery, according to an official of the Imperial Household Agency. The ceremony was closed to the public.

The empress would normally be assisted by five people but only one was on hand due to the coronavirus outbreak, and she will only be raising one breed of silkworm, the Koishimaru, which is indigenous to Japan.

The empress is carrying on the tradition from former Empress Michiko, following the abdication of Emperor Akihito on April 30 last year. Emperor Naruhito ascended the throne the next day.

Empress Masako did not engage in silk farming last year.

The imperial sericulture tradition dates back to 1871 when then Empress Shoken began silk farming to promote what was recognized as an important industry at that time, according to the agency.

The tradition has been maintained by successive empresses.

In May 2018, Empress Masako, when she was still crown princess, visited then Empress Michiko at the imperial cocoonery along with her husband and their daughter Aiko to learn about sericulture.

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