The New Year message is very close to the traditional press conference that Emperor Akihito offers on his birthday on 23 December. Foregoing the New Year message would make his work load more bearable.
Emperor Akihito will continue with the traditional greetings from the entire Royal Household, which takes from the Imperial Palace balcony in Tokyo on 2 January. The day is expected to pull record crowds as travel agencies are reporting that day trips into the city are completely sold out.
In August, Emperor Akihito made a rare televised broadcast in which he expressed his desire to abdicate in favour his son, the Crown Prince Naruhito. Emperor Akihito is recovering from a fever he suffered recently. He has undergone bypass surgery in 2012 and had prostate cancer in 2003.
He was born on 23 December 1933 as the elder son and the fifth child of the Emperor Shōwa (Hirohito) and Empress Kōjun (Nagako). He was titled Prince Tsugu as a child. He was heir-apparent to the Chrysanthemum throne from the moment of his birth, but his formal investiture as crown prince was held at the Tokyo Imperial Palace on 10 November 1952. In June 1953, he represented Japan at the coronation of Her Majesty The Queen in London. In August 1957, he met Michiko Shōda on a tennis court. Their engagement was formally approved on 27 November 1958, and they married on 10 April 1959. She was the first commoner to marry into the Imperial Family. They went on to have three children, Naruhito, Crown Prince of Japan (born 1960), Fumihito, Prince Akishino (born 1965) and Mrs. Sayako Kuroda (born 1969, formerly known as The Princess Nori). They have four grandchildren: three granddaughters and one grandson.