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Emperor, family give first public New Year's greeting since 2020


Emperor Naruhito and his family waved to throngs of New Year’s well-wishers from the balcony at the Imperial Palace on Monday in the return of a celebration halted for the past two years by the pandemic.

Naruhito offered prayers for people’s happiness and world peace in the appearance Monday beside his wife, Empress Masako, and their daughter.

Princess Aiko, who turned 21 in December, was appearing in her first New Year’s public greeting. Legal adulthood is 20 in Japan and a condition for taking part in some events featuring the emperor’s family.

Emperor Emeritus Akihito and Empress Emerita Michiko greet well-wishers at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo on Monday. Image: Franck Robichon/Pool via AP

Also standing by was Emperor Emeritus Akihito, who abdicated in favor of his son in 2019, and his wife, Empress Emerita Michiko.

Naruhito noted the past few years had been filled with hardships brought on by the pandemic.

“These must have been hard times for many of you,” he told the crowd below, many waving small Japanese flags.

From left: Princess Tsuguko of Takamado, Princess Hisako of Takamado, Princess Hanako of Hitachi, Prince Hitachi, Emperor Emeritus Akihito, Empress Emerita Michiko, Emperor Naruhito, Empress Masako, Princess Aiko, Crown Prince Akishino, Crown Princess Kiko, Princess Kako, Princess Yuriko of Mikasa, Princess Nobuko of Mikasa and Princess Akiko of Mikasa greet well-wishers at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo on Monday. Image: Tomohiro Ohsumi/Pool via AP

For the last two years, the emperor skipped the public greeting and instead sent video messages. Only those who applied and were selected in advance were allowed in the Imperial Palace grounds this year because of pandemic restrictions on large crowds.

Six greeting sessions were held during the day.

In September, Naruhito made his first trip abroad since the pandemic and since he ascended to the Chrysanthemum Throne, to attend the state funeral of Britain's Queen Elizabeth II.

Naruhito studied at Oxford University and plays Western classical music, and his family has built close relations with British royalty.

The emperor does not have political power but carries symbolic significance for Japan, and he is generally welcomed adoringly by Japanese people when he attends cultural events and makes other public appearances.

© 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

©2024 GPlusMedia Inc.

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What a wonderful job!

-5 ( +1 / -6 )

Why are they wearing masks out in the open like that? It's 2023 already.

-2 ( +13 / -15 )

Fantastic waving. I wonder how long they practiced to get in sync.

-4 ( +7 / -11 )

Yesterday you published a photo of them unmasked and today they're masked. Does anyone know why they need to be masked, behind glass and in no contact with the public?

0 ( +11 / -11 )

Masked behind the glass...

2023 is not off to a good start in Japan as commonsense takes a back seat to tatemae.

-5 ( +10 / -15 )

Things will not change until someone at the top shows some courage.

We're in the wrong country for that.

-10 ( +6 / -16 )

Japanese perception of the Royal Family is deep rooted in their culture and no matter what we think of them, this is Japan.

The rest of us are visitors no matter how long we have lived here.

Go! Go! Wave The Wave Of Fiction To Your People....

-9 ( +5 / -14 )

Ash yes, they are wearing a mask because they went through the Japanese schooling system and critical thinking isn’t part of the course.

its a bit like the karate kid, mask on, mask off, mask on, mask off.

absolutely no reason to be weakening a mask, with your family, or behind glass.

Please notice the people below NOT wearing a mask infront of hundreds of people.

-6 ( +8 / -14 )

“These must have been hard times for many of you,”

omitted the word 'peasants'

-3 ( +4 / -7 )

"Why the masks?" was my first thought as well, but seeing the 2nd pic, I would see the reasoning, with older people around who have a fragile health and probably a weak immun system as well, and with whom you don't live together, not putting on a mask would be the wrong choice to show to the public. Still, a bit of a regretable situation, not being able to tell the people that at times not masking up is ok.

-2 ( +4 / -6 )

My goal is to attend this event next year.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

Hey had an idea if we stop giving these guys millions of yen each year Japan might be able to afford new weapons with out needing to increase taxes to by so much.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Royal equals parasite.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Mask wearing in Japan has been a health strategy way before 2019. ALL of you have been told this many time ,but persist in wining about mask wearing. Build a bridge and get over it.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

James: The Emperor Family makes a profit for the Government about the only asset which does.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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