Emperor Naruhito of Japan’s birthday event set for this coming weekend has been cancelled due to the coronavirus outbreak seriously impacting Asia where over 1,000 people have been killed in China.
The Imperial Household Agency announced today that they had cancelled the public birthday event at the Imperial Palace as they are concerned it could contribute to the spread of the deadly infection.
“We made the decision to cancel the public event at the palace, which is attended every year by many people in close proximity, after considering the risk of the virus spreading,” vice grand steward of the agency, Kenji Ikeda, said during a press conference.
The Emperor, who will turn 60, was due to give his first birthday address as monarch on Sunday since he took the throne on 1 May 2019 after his father, Emperor Emeritus Akihito abdicated the previous day (becoming the first Japanese emperor to do so in nearly 200 years). He and Empress Masako were due to greet the public three times from the balcony alongside Crown Prince Fumihito and Crown Princess Kiko with their two daughters, Princesses Mako and Kako.
This is the first time the public birthday celebrations have been cancelled because of public health concerns. They were cancelled even though the Japanese government has stressed there was no need to do so.
The signing of the visitors’ register Sunday afternoon at the Imperial Palace is also cancelled. Private celebrations with family and executive government officials will go on as planned.
The pneumonia-like virus originated in China and has infected more than 65,000 people in the country. Japan has had 43 cases, while Singapore has had 75 and Thailand 33.
It has also spread to Australia and the United States where each country have had 15 people diagnosed. Several European countries, including the United Kingdom, have had confirmed cases.