Empress Masako feeds silkworms in Imperial tradition

Empress Masako has taken part in a traditional event of the Japanese Imperial family to feed silkworms.

Japanese empresses have passed down the tradition of sericulture since the late 19th century.

The Empress on Tuesday went to a facility in the Imperial Palace compound in Tokyo where silkworms are grown. She gave mulberry leaves to a domestic species called "koishimaru" that have now grown to about three centimeters long.

Imperial Household Agency officials say the Empress looked pleased to see the insects quickly appear from under the leaves.

Three other species of silkworms are also grown at the palace. Some are said to be spinning cocoons already.

Officials say the Empress will harvest cocoons.

The agency says silk produced at the facility will be used in gifts for foreign dignitaries.