Emperor Akihito greeted by tens of thousands at Imperial Palace

The Emperor of Japan, Akihito, was greeted by tens of thousands outside the Imperial Palace who had gathered to hear his New Year’s speech.

The New Year’s speech is one of two events in which the Imperial Palace is open to the public. The other day is on the Emperor’s Birthday on the 23rd of December.

He delivered a speech from his bullet-proof balcony at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo. He was joined by Crown Prince Naruhito, who will be taking the throne next year. As well as the Crown Prince’s wife, Masako.

Speaking to the assembled crowd, he said: “I wish that this year will prove a gentle and spiritually fulfilling one for as many people as possible.”

The New Year address gives the Japanese people a rare opportunity to greet their Emperor. As such, attendance is usually high. Another boost was given to the audience as Emperor Akihito will be retiring next year. Over 120,000 people had gathered to see the Emperor, an increase of 97,000 from last year.

Also on the balcony was Princess Mako, the Emperor’s eldest granddaughter. This will be her last appearance on the balcony as she will be getting married. As such, she will lose her title as a princess and will no longer take part in the New Year’s appearances.

Emperor Akihito will be handing the Chrysanthemum Throne over to Crown Prince Naruhito in April 2019. He is stepping down as his health and age would make it difficult to complete the duties expected of him.  A one-off piece of legislation was implemented to allow for him to abdicate in favour of his son. He will be the first Emperor to abdicate in over two centuries.

His abdication will bring about the end of the Heisei era. A new Imperial Era will begin upon being succeeded by his son.