Japan’s Emperor Akihito makes his final New Year’s Day appearance to over 150,000 people

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Posted

January 02, 2019 23:38:39

Japanese Emperor Akihito’s farewell tour continues as throngs of well-wishers eager to see his final New Year’s appearance said goodbye to the sovereign before he abdicates.

Key points:

  • The Emperor will abdicate the throne to his son, Crown Prince Naruhito
  • His frailty has been witnessed at recent events, and is the reason for his abdication
  • The Crown Prince won’t be able to pass on the throne to his daughter

“I am truly happy to celebrate the New Year with all of you under such cloudless skies,” the 85-year-old emperor told the crowd from a balcony at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo.

Emperor Akihito has made annual New Year’s appearances with his wife, Empress Michiko, and other family members to wish peace for the nation.

Japanese media reported that more than 150,000 people attended, a record under his reign.

Many waited from early in the morning and waved Japanese flags when the Emperor appeared.

Emperor Akihito succeeded his father, wartime Emperor Hirohito, in 1989, and will abdicate on April 30, with his elder son, Naruhito, ascending to the Chrysanthemum Throne.

Akihito was first Emperor not to be revered as a god

Japan’s imperial family is far more cloistered than its Western counterparts, and Emperor Hirohito was once viewed as a god.

His son strove to become a more accessible emperor.

He was the first in modern history to marry a commoner, courting Empress Michiko on the tennis courts.

Both of his sons have married commoners.

His abdication is also a rarity.

He announced his desire to step down in a video message, citing a worry about how well he could perform his duties as his health declined.

Emperor Akihito appeared to wobble during a palace event earlier this week to greet foreign dignitaries.

Empress Michiko reached out worriedly and held up his arm with hers.

Crown Prince’s daughter unable to succeed to throne

Her husband’s three-decade reign is known in Japan as “Heisei,” with the first character meaning “peace.”

A senior politician in the ruling coalition that a name for the new era will be announced on April 1.

Crown Prince Naruhito appeared on the balcony with his wife, Crown Princess Masako, who was smiling and wearing a burgundy dress.

She has missed some events over the years due to what palace officials have described as a stress-related illness, which is widely attributed to the pressures of palace life.

The Harvard-educated former diplomat expressed a desire to fulfil more of her duties in a statement released through the palace last month.

She noted she had accompanied Prince Naruhito in May to a Red Cross event she had missed for the last 15 years.

“The warm feelings of the people have helped me greatly,” she said of her recovery, hinting she may try to be more visible, as many had hoped when she gave up her career to enter the palace.

The public is closely watching to see how the younger and more international couple might bring more openness to a role that holds no political power but is widely recognised as a cultural and emotional symbol for Japan.

Crown Prince Naruhito, 58, attended Oxford, speaks good English, plays the cello and has vowed to “protect Masako.”

The Crown Prince’s younger brother and his family are also expected to play a fairly major role.

The Japanese throne is only inherited by male heirs, and Crown Prince Naruhito’s only child is a daughter.

Prince Akishino and his young son are next in the line of succession after his older brother.

AP

Topics:

royal-and-imperial-matters,

family-and-children,

world-politics,

japan





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