Japan's emperor gives first birthday address in four-year reign

After delays caused by the COVID-19 outbreak, the Japanese Emperor Naruhito delivered his first public birthday speech on Thursday. He offered assistance for those dealing with inflation and the pandemic.

The Japanese Emperor Naruhito

TOKYO, Feb 23 - Japanese Emperor Naruhito on Thursday gave his first public birthday address since ascending the throne almost four years ago, after delays due to the COVID-19 outbreak, and urged support for people struggling with inflation and the pandemic.

"Many people are having difficulties in their daily life amid the pandemic and rising prices," Naruhito said, standing on a palace balcony to accept cheers and well-wishes from thousands of citizens assembled on the grounds below.

"My heart feels pain when I think about people in vulnerable positions, who are elderly, who have disabilities, who are in need of support, and people in poverty and their children."

"But it is encouraging and I am thankful to know that there are many people who support these people in vulnerable positions."

Naruhito, who turned 63, was crowned emperor on May 1, 2019, after his father Akihito became the first emperor to abdicate in two centuries.

Public birthday appearances by the emperor are an annual tradition but the event had been suspended from 2020 due to the pandemic.

Last month, Naruhito also resumed the emperor's traditional New Year's address for the first time since the COVID outbreak as the country eases restrictions and returns to normal practices.

Naruhito was joined by his wife, Empress Masako, his daughter Aiko, 21, and his brother Crown Prince Akishino and his wife and daughter, all of whom wore white masks.


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