Monday, January 2, 2023

Emperor of Japan welcomes throng at palace following Covid break

Japanese emperor greets crowd at palace after Covid hiatus


TOKYO: In a celebration that had been postponed for the previous two years due to the pandemic, Japan's Emperor Naruhito and his family waved to throngs of New Year's eve supporters on Monday from the balcony of the Imperial Palace.

In his appearance on Monday, Naruhito, accompanied by Empress Masako, his wife, and their daughter, offered prayers for people's happiness and world peace.

In her first public New Year's greeting, Princess Aiko, who turned 21 in December, was making an appearance.

In Japan, the legal age to participate in some events involving the emperor's family is 20 years old.

Empress Emeritus Michiko and Emperor Emeritus Akihito, who abdicated in 2019 in favor of his son, were also on standby.

Naruhito said that the pandemic had caused a lot of problems in the past few years.

He said to the crowd below, many of whom were waving small Japanese flags, "These must have been hard times for many of you."

The emperor has sent video messages rather than a public greeting for the past two years.

This year, due to pandemic restrictions on large crowds, only those who applied and were selected in advance were permitted to enter the Imperial Palace grounds.

Naruhito went to the state funeral of Britain's Queen Elizabeth II, his first trip outside of Japan since the pandemic and his ascendance to the Chrysanthemum Throne in September.

Naruhito plays Western classical music and went to Oxford University. His family has had close relationships with British royalty.

Although the emperor does not hold any political power, he carries symbolic weight for Japan. When he attends cultural events and makes other public appearances, he is generally greeted with affection by the Japanese people.

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