Huge crowds cheer Ja­pan em­peror on 83rd birth­day

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

TOKYO:

The big­gest crowds of his nearly three-decade reign thronged Ja­pan’s Im­pe­rial Palace yesterday to cel­e­brate Em­peror Ak­i­hito’s 83rd birth­day on what could be his last such ap­pear­ance af­ter ex­press­ing his de­sire to ab­di­cate. It was his first birth­day since he an­nounced in Au­gust that his ad­vanc­ing age and weak­en­ing health mean he may no longer be able to carry out his du­ties, set­ting the stage for Ja­pan to pre­pare for an his­toric ab­di­ca­tion.

The Im­pe­rial Palace said some 33,300 peo­ple-the big­gest crowd since Ak­i­hito as­cended to the throne in 1989 — attended his birth­day ad­dress, wav­ing small Ja­panese flags as crowds shouted “Ban­zai” or “Long live”. “If this is go­ing to be his last time, I’m glad I got to see him,” said Reiko Taka­hashi.

Also at­tend­ing the em­peror’s ad­dress, Takako Miyazaki ex­pressed the view of many Ja­panese. “The em­peror is quite old and if he says he wants to ab­di­cate I think he should be al­lowed to,” she said.

Flanked by Em­press Michiko and other mem­bers of the royal house­hold, the soft-spo­ken monarch greeted well-wish­ers from a glass-covered bal­cony at the palace, sur­rounded by stone walls and mossy moats.

“I wish you all health and hap­pi­ness, and I pray the next year will be cheer­ful and peace­ful,” the em­peror said in his ad­dress. Ahead of his birth­day, Ak­i­hito thanked the coun­try for con­sid­er­ing his

mes­sage in­di­cat­ing his de­sire to ab­di­cate, telling re­porters: “I am pro­foundly grate­ful that many peo­ple have lent an ear to my words and are giv­ing sin­cere thought to the mat­ter in their re­spec­tive po­si­tions.” — AFP

TOKYO: Ja­pan’s Em­peror Ak­i­hito (cen­ter) smil­ing as he is sur­rounded by heads of diplo­matic mis­sions in Ja­pan and their spouses dur­ing a tea re­cep­tion to cel­e­brate his birth­day at the Im­pe­rial Palace in Tokyo yesterday. — AFP

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