Japan’s Emperor Naruhito greets public for 1st time since ascension

TOKYO, May 4, 2019, Kyodo. Japan’s Emperor Naruhito greeted thousands of ecstatic well-wishers at the Imperial Palace on Saturday, expressing his hope for world peace in his first public appearance since his enthronement earlier this week, reported the Kyodo.

“I sincerely hope for the further development of our nation, going hand in hand with other countries to pursue world peace,” said the 59-year-old, accompanied by his wife Empress Masako, wearing a yellow dress and hat, and other members of the imperial family.

The emperor, in a morning suit, told the well-wishers he appreciated their congratulations and wished for their health and happiness.

His ascent to the Chrysanthemum Throne on Wednesday came a day after his 85-year-old father, former Emperor Akihito, became the first Japanese monarch in 202 years to abdicate.

The imperial family including the emperor’s younger brother Crown Prince Fumihito, Crown Princess Kiko and their two daughters waved and smiled to the flag-waving crowd for about five minutes from behind the windows of a balcony at the palace in Tokyo.

A total of six rounds of public appearances were scheduled for Saturday, with the first starting at 10 a.m. and the last at 3 p.m.

Well-wishers waited in front of the palace from the early morning, with a line of roughly 49,000 people stretching all the way to nearby Tokyo Station, prompting the Imperial Household Agency to open the gate 20 minutes earlier than scheduled.

The former emperor and former Empress Michiko, who have retired from all official duties, were not scheduled to take part in the events, according to the agency, nor were young imperials including Prince Hisahito, second in line to the throne behind the crown prince, as is customary.

The last similar public appearances by the former emperor in January attracted 154,800 people, the largest crowd recorded during his 30-year reign.

For the former emperor’s first public appearance in November 1990 following his ascension to the throne, around 109,800 well-wishers visited the palace. The celebration took place nearly two years after Emperor Hirohito’s death as the country remained in mourning.

The agency had initially planned to allow the public to make congratulatory visits after a key ceremony on Oct. 22 to proclaim the enthronement of Emperor Naruhito in front of representatives from home and abroad, known as “Sokuirei Seiden no gi.”

But the agency decided to bring the appearances forward as Japan’s traditional Golden Week holiday period has been extended to 10 days this year, from April 27 through May 6, to incorporate the historic imperial transition.

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