Japanese Emperor Akihito greets thousands in final New Year’s address

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Tokyo, Jan 2 (IANS) Japanese Emperor Akihito on Wednesday greeted tens of thousands of flag-waving well-wishers in the final New Years address of his reign, ahead of his abdication at the end of April.

Accompanied by Empress Michiko, Akihito greeted the crowds from a balcony in Tokyo’s Imperial Palace, wishing everyone a “good year”. A record 154,800 well-wishers visited the palace during the course of the day, the Japan Times reported.

“I hope this year will be a good year for as many people as possible,” said the Emperor, who waved to the crowd with his wife and other members of the Imperial family from behind bullet-proofed glass on a balcony of the palace.

Akihito prayed for the peace and happiness of the people of Japan and the world, Japan’s broadcaster NHK reported.

Akihito, 85, will abdicate on April 30 and the next day his eldest son, Naruhito, will assume the Chrysanthemum Throne.

Akihito decided to abdicate in 2016 because his advanced age prevented him from fully performing his duties.

A total of five greeting sessions were initially planned for Wednesday: Three in the morning and two in the afternoon. But due to the large number of visitors, the Imperial Household Agency added another greeting session in the afternoon.

The number of visitors to the palace to see the last New Year greeting by Akihito as emperor touched a record 154,800 figure since he ascended the throne in 1989.

In 2018, 126,720 people visited the greeting ceremony, a 31 per cent rise compared to the year before.

–IANS

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