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Emperor celebrates 80th birthday


Thousands of people thronged the Imperial Palace Monday to celebrate Emperor Akihito's 80th birthday, as he praised his wife for standing by him in his "lonely" pursuit of leading the world's oldest monarchy.

Empress Michiko, a wealthy flour magnate's daughter, was the first commoner in modern times to marry into Japan's imperial family.

Following their fairy-tale wedding in 1959, Michiko, now 79, also became the first empress to raise her children herself, famously making them "bento" lunch boxes to take to school.

"Being an emperor can be a lonely state," Akihito said in an interview released by the Imperial Household Agency on Monday.

"But it has given me comfort and joy to have by my side the empress, who has always respected my position and stood by me.

"And I feel most fortunate that I have been able to endeavor to carry out my role as emperor with the empress by my side," said the aging monarch, who inherited the Chrysanthemum Throne in 1989 upon his father Emperor Hirohito's death.

The soft-spoken monarch greeted well-wishers from a glass-covered balcony at the Imperial Palace overlooking the East Garden, flanked by Empress Michiko and other members of the royal household.

"Thinking about disaster sufferers, I will spend my days wishing all the people happiness," he said, referring to the devastating 2011 earthquake and tsunami and various other natural disasters that struck Japan in the past year.

The Imperial Palace said around 24,000 attended his birthday address, braving the bitter cold and waving small Japanese flags as crowds shouted "Banzai."

In the afternoon, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe joined other dignitaries for a birthday banquet at the palace.

While Emperor Hirohito was once worshipped as a living demigod, Akihito and Michiko have tried to be seen as an "ordinary couple" and narrowed the distance between the palace and the people.

The Imperial Palace, surrounded by stone walls and mossy moats -- is opened to the general public twice a year -- on the emperor's birthday and the second day of New Year -- for the royal family to greet well-wishers.

The Japanese throne is held in deep respect by much of the public, despite being stripped of much of its mystique and its quasi-divine status in the aftermath of World War II.

© (c) 2013 AFP

©2024 GPlusMedia Inc.

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Congratulations on the occasion of the Emperor's birthday. I wish the Majesty good health, long life, and every success in his activities, and peace, and prosperity.

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Congrats and birthday greetings to Emperor Akihito on his 80th birthday. And many more!

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Congratulations to Emperor Akihito on his 80th Birthday!

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And Jan. 1 is a Utaka Hajime ( Japanese Poetry Convention) there

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Otanjoubi omedetou gozaimashita ^_^

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How sweet of him to put the focus on his wife's role. The women really do suffer and sacrifice for their country - it's wonderful that the emperor acknowledges the empress' importance.

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Four nice, kind, warm-hearted persons! With the Emperor being the spiritual head of the nation, whom people love so dearly, all politicians of the country, no matter how ambitious they are, are mere servants ordered by the Emperor to serve the people, not people becoming servants of political lords. How lucky Japan is, to have such an excellent political system!

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