TOKYO – Emperor Akihito of Japan greeted on Wednesday the citizens of his country to express his good wishes for the new year in the last ceremony of its kind before he abdicates in April.
Accompanied by Empress Michiko, Akihito greeted the crowds from a balcony in Tokyo’s Imperial Palace, wishing everyone a “good year.”
He 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.
The emperor was set to greet the public five times from the balcony on Wednesday to wish his subjects well – three times in the morning and twice in the afternoon – but the Imperial Household Agency decided to hold a third afternoon session due to the high number of visitors.
The number of visitors to the palace to see the last New Year greeting by Akihito as emperor touched a record 154,800, the highest figure since he ascended the throne in 1989.
In 2018, 126,720 people visited the greeting ceremony, a 31 percent rise compared to the year before.