Empress Michiko marked her 77th birthday on Thursday. In remarks released by the Imperial Household Agency, the empress expressed her sympathy for the victims of the March 11 disaster and support for the ongoing reconstruction efforts.
The empress and Emperor Akihito actively reached out to survivors of the earthquake and tsunami. Akihito delivered an unprecedented TV address to the nation, and the pair visited evacuees for seven straight weeks from the end of March through May.
"I experienced a sense of helplessness when I saw the devastation but I felt optimism when I saw the resilience of the people and their determination not to give up. The emperor and I have also been encouraged by the spirit of sharing and giving that so many people from all over Japan have shown in helping victims," she said in the statement.
The empress also acknowledged that age has made it more difficult for her and the emperor, who is also 77, to carry out their official duties.
The popular imperial couple did not travel abroad this year.
Michiko suffers from severe pain in her left arm, while Akihito has been on hormone therapy since prostate surgery eight years ago. He also takes medication to prevent the narrowing of his coronary arteries.© Japan Today/AP