Japan’s emperor greets crowd at palace after COVID hiatus

TOKYO (AP) — Japan’s Emperor Naruhito and his family waved to a crowd of people celebrating the New Year from the balcony of the Imperial Palace on Monday, returning to a celebration that had been disrupted for the past two years by the pandemic.

Naruhito appeared by his wife, Empress Masako, and their daughter on Monday to pray for people’s happiness and world peace.

Princess Aiko, who turned 21 in December, appeared in her first New Year’s greetings. Legal adulthood in Japan is that she is 20 years old, a condition for attending some events featuring the Emperor’s family.

Also, Emperor Akihito, who abdicated in 2019 for his son, and his wife, Empress Michiko.

Naruhito said the past few years have been filled with hardships brought on by the pandemic.

“These must have been difficult times for many of you,” he told the crowd below.

For the past two years, the emperor has skipped public greetings and sent video messages instead. This year, due to pandemic restrictions on large crowds, only those who applied in advance and were selected were allowed to enter the grounds of the Imperial Palace.

In September, Naruhito made his first overseas trip since the pandemic and since his accession to the Chrysanthemum Throne, attending the state funeral of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II.

Naruhito studied at Oxford University, performed Western classical music, and his family has had close ties to the British royal family.

Although the emperor has no political power, he is symbolic for Japan and is generally warmly welcomed by the Japanese when he attends cultural events and makes public appearances. increase.


Follow Yuri Kageyama on Twitter https://twitter.com/yurikageyama