Rabu, 02 Januari 2008

Japan's Emperor Akihito greets New Year crowds (AFP)

TOKYO (AFP) - Tens of thousands of cheering Japanese gathered in the Imperial Palace in Tokyo on Wednesday to hear Emperor Akihito pray for the nations happiness and world peace in his traditional New Year address.

Millions more descended on Buddhist temples, Shinto shrines and other places of worship as well as shopping and entertainment centres across the country.

"I feel pleased to celebrate the New Year with you," the 74-year-old monarch repeated with a smile as he appeared several times with royal family members on the glassed-in balcony of Chowa Den (Hall of Lasting Peace)."

"At the beginning of the year, I wish for the happiness of our nation and peace in the world," Akihito said as crowds shouted "Banzai" (long live) and waved Japanese flags.

About 51,100 people visited the palace for the imperial familys appearances in the morning in bright sunshine, a spokesman for the Imperial Household Agency said. Four more greeting sessions were scheduled for the afternoon.

The palace lies inside stone walls and moats and is opened to the general public only twice a year -- the emperors birthday on December 23 and January 2.

The imperial familys New Year public appearances started after World War II when Akihitos father, the late Emperor Hirohito, was reduced from having a divine status to a ceremonial role by the US-inspired constitution.

The emperor read the message, identical to the one he uttered a year earlier, as Empress Michiko, Crown Prince Naruhito and other members of the imperial family lined up by his side in formal western clothes.

Crown Princess Masako, a 44-year-old Harvard-educated former career diplomat, took part only in the morning sessions.

She is still recuperating from a stress disorder, linked to her struggle to adapt to life in the cloistered palace, which has limited her public events since December 2003.

Intense pressure on Masako to produce a male heir was lessened in September 2006 when Princess Kiko, the wife of the emperors second son Prince Akishino, gave birth to the first boy for the imperial family since 1965.

eXTReMe Tracker