The scale of a key ceremony following Crown Prince Naruhito's ascension as emperor next year will be markedly smaller than the one held for Emperor Akihito in 1990.

The Imperial Household Agency announced Dec. 19 that the changes concern a temporary hall for the Daijosai rites in which the new occupant of the Chrysanthemum Throne presents rice harvested that year to imperial ancestors and various deities, and prays for peace and an abundant harvest for the nation.

It will be scaled back by about 20 percent.

The changes come after Prince Fumihito, Naruhito's younger brother, raised concerns in a November news conference about using public funds for a ceremony with religious overtones.

The proposed changes will center on the Daijokyu, the temporary hall constructed for the ceremony that is later dismantled.

Although the size of the structures will be reduced to cut costs, the overall expense is expected to exceed the 1990 Daijosai, said officials, citing increased personnel and materials costs.

The Daijosai is scheduled for Nov. 14 and 15.

The temporary hall for the ceremony will be constructed on an approximately 90-meter-square site in the east garden of the Imperial Palace. About 30 structures will be built on the site, including the Yukiden and Sukiden, which will serve as the main stage for the ceremony performed by the new emperor.

Construction will probably begin in July, with completion planned for late October.

Akihito will abdicate on April 30, and his eldest son will become emperor on May 1.

Total construction costs for the temporary hall used in the 1990 Daijosai came to about 1.4 billion yen ($12.5 million). But given higher personnel and materials costs since that ceremony, Imperial Household Agency officials have been looking for ways to cut other costs.

While the Dec. 19 committee meeting decided to retain the same number of structures and basic layout, some of them will be prefabricated rather than built from scratch.

Among the candidates for the change are the two Kashiwaya, where the offerings to the gods are to be prepared, and the Saiko, where the new rice harvest will be stored before being offered in the ceremony.

The exteriors of the prefabricated structures will be decorated to avoid ruining the overall atmosphere of the traditional ceremony.

Two smaller tent-covered structures for invited guests will be used as the number of invited guests is expected to drop to 700 compared with 930 previously.

Because the number of male imperial household members taking part in the ceremony will also be smaller than for the 1990 ceremony, the special structures they are to use will be smaller.

Reducing the area of the site for the temporary hall will result in other savings, officials said, citing the need for less gravel and fewer trees being cut down.

The roofs of the Yukiden and Sukiden will be covered with wooden shingles rather than thatch, due to growing difficulty in obtaining thatch. Some of the lumber used in pillars will also be changed to reduce costs and construction time.

After the committee meeting, Yasuhiko Nishimura, vice grand steward at the Imperial Household Agency, said, "We have held discussions for more than a year about possible changes without damaging the significance of the Daijosai."

(This article was written by Akiko Tada and Ayako Nakada.)