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JAPANESE PRINCE WEDS AS NATION WATCHES ON TV

Prince Aya, second in line to Japan's 2,000-year-old Chrysanthemum throne, married his college sweetheart Kiko Kawashima, a commoner, in an elaborate court ceremony Friday with an eager nation watching on television.

The wedding marked only the second time an imperial family member has wed a commoner. In 1959, Aya's father, Emperor Akihito, broke precedent when as crown prince he married the former Michiko Shoda, daughter of an industrialist.The 23-year-old Kawashima, wearing a 12-layer silk kimono weighing 37 pounds and a wig tied in a long pony tail that flowed the length of her back, was wedded to the prince in a 10-minute Shinto ceremony at Kashikodokoro, one of three religious sanctuaries in the Imperial Palace.

The prince, 24, wore stiff black robes, embossed with a centuries-old pattern exclusive to the imperial family, and a curved headdress.

About 150 invited guests attended the austere ceremony, which began at 10 a.m., while the rest of the nation was offered discreet glimpses by television.

Following the daylong festivities, the couple led a procession to their new home at the Akasaka Imperial Palace.