TOKYO – Japanese Emperor Akihito and his family brought in the New Year with a ceremony at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo on Tuesday, one of his last public appearances before his abdication in 2019.
A crowd of thousands watched as 84-year-old Emperor Akihito, alongside his wife Empress Michiko and other members of the royal family, greeted well wishers throughout the day, telling them he prayed for the happiness of the people of Japan and the rest of the world.
Akihito’s granddaughter, princess Mako, who is set to marry in November, joined him on the balcony of the Chowa-Den reception hall of the palace, which was protected with bullet-proof glass.
Masako, wife of Crown Prince Naruhito, attends the New Year appearance every year despite not taking part in other palace engagements after being diagnosed with depression more than a decade ago.
The Imperial Palace said that around 70,000 people visited the royal family’s residence, the biggest turnout since 1994, according to state agency NHK.
The Emperor will abdicate on April 30, 2019, almost three years after announcing his intention to step down.
Akihito will cede the throne to his eldest son Naruhito on May 1, 2019, in the first succession during the lifetime of a Japanese monarch for two centuries.