Emperor shortens New Year functions

TOKYO: Japanese Emperor Akihito, diagnosed with prostate cancer last week, cut short his customary New Year's Day functions yesterday as he prepared to undergo surgery in about two weeks. 

The 69-year-old emperor received diplomats from some 120 foreign countries at the Imperial Palace in the afternoon but heard greetings from just one of them, Djibouti Ambassador Rachad Farah, to save time. 

Usually, Akihito receives greetings from the representative of each country in presence. Accordingly, the ceremony lasted five minutes, some 30 minutes shorter than the previous year. 

Farah, head of the foreign diplomatic corps, said he prayed for the emperor's quick recovery and long life, according to press reports. 

In a gesture of unusual candour, the emperor said with a broad smile, “I feel grateful for your inquiry after my health. I deeply appreciate it.” He then shook hands with Farah. – AFP  

  • Another perspective from The Yomiuri Shimbun, a partner of Asia News Network. 

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