© KAZUHIRO NOGI
Image: Japan’s Emperor Akihito
TOKYO — Japanese Emperor Akihito waved to throngs of well-wishers eager to see the final New Year’s appearance of his reign Wednesday just months before the 85-year-old royal abdicates.
“I am truly happy to celebrate the New Year with all of you under such cloudless skies,” he told the crowd from a balcony at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo.
Akihito makes annual New Year’s appearances alongside his wife Empress Michiko and other family members to wish peace for the nation. He was scheduled to make five appearances Wednesday. Japanese media reported more than 90,000 people had gathered by early afternoon. Many waved Japanese flags and had waited from early in the morning.
Akihito succeeded his father, wartime Emperor Hirohito, in 1989. He will abdicate on April 30 with his elder son ascending to the Chrysanthemum Throne.
Japan’s imperial family is far more cloistered than their Western counterparts, and Hirohito was once viewed as a god. Akihito strove to become a more accessible emperor. He was the first to marry a commoner, courting Michiko on the tennis courts. Both of his sons have married commoners.
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