Tokyo: Japan’s Emperor Akihito delivered his final New Year’s address before his abdication later this year, telling tens of thousands of well-wishers that he was praying for peace.
The Imperial Palace said more than 114,600 people had flocked to the royal residence by early yesterday afternoon, with more still arriving for a final chance to see the 85-year-old royal deliver his traditional annual greeting.
The emperor will become the first Japanese monarch to abdicate in around two centuries when he steps down from the throne on April 30, ending his three-decade reign.
“Happy New Year. I’m sincerely glad to celebrate the new year together with you under the clear sky,” he told the crowd, many waving Japanese flags and shouting “Banzai”, meaning “long live”.
“I hope this year will be a good year for as many people as possible,” the soft-spoken Akihito said in a dark suit, flanked by Empress Michiko and other family members.
“I pray for the peace and happiness of the people of our country and the world.”
The emperor delivers a brief New Year’s greeting every year and was expected to appear five times yesterday to address as many well-wishers as possible.
Some in the morning crowd yelled “Thank you very much” as the emperor waved, while others sang the national anthem.
One woman in the front row wept as she looked up at the balcony.
“I came here with my mother to imprint his last appearance as emperor in our memories,” said Yume Nishimura, a university student. — AFP