Photo/IllutrationEmpress Michiko, with Emperor Akihito at her side, feeds carrots to Kusashin-go as a reward for its loyal service at the Imperial Palace stables in Tokyo on April 23. (Sako Kazuyoshi)

Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko bade a fond farewell April 23 to a carriage horse that is being retired at age 17 to spend its final years at the Ise Jingu shrine in Ise, Mie Prefecture, serving gods.

The couple paid a special visit to the stables at the Imperial Palace in central Tokyo to thank Kusashin-go for its loyal service.

The horse was part of a team that hauled an ornate carriage used by foreign ambassadors when they visit the emperor for the Ceremony of Credentials upon taking up their posts, and for other official occasions.

As a reward, they fed the horse lumps of sugar and carrots and stroked its mane.

Akihito seemed surprised at the size of the animal, commenting, "It's very big.”

Michiko wished the horse "good luck" in its new surroundings.

According to the Imperial Household Agency, the Anglo-Arabian breed was born at the Imperial Stock Farm in Tochigi Prefecture.

Kusashin-go will be bestowed “shinme” sacred status as early as June at Ise Jingu shrine, officials said.

Ise Jingu is regarded as the home of the ancestral gods of Japan's imperial family.