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Politicians, business leaders and musicians gathered with the public to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Emperor’s reign in both civic- and government-sponsored festivities Friday in Tokyo.

About 1,300 people gathered at the National Theater of Japan in Tokyo’s Chiyoda Ward in the afternoon to congratulate the Emperor and Empress during government-
organized ceremonies that included performances by world-renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma and soprano Ai Ichihara.

“It is my earnest hope that the people of Japan will cooperate in harmony with the people of the world and together do their utmost aiming at a better future,” the Emperor said.

Reflecting on the past decade, the Emperor said he hopes the “light shed on the way toward peace” following the collapse of the Soviet Union, symbolizing the end of the Cold War, will not be extinguished.

“The 10 years of the Heisei Era mark a turning point in history, as we move from the 20th to the 21st century,” Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi said during his congratulatory address during the ceremony, which was attended by survivors of the Great Hanshin Earthquake of 1995.

“In this period, many changes took place, both domestic and foreign, and we now face many issues that must be overcome.”

Obuchi offered his gratitude for the Imperial Couple’s humanitarian missions and their prayers for war victims and natural disasters.

“We were greatly moved and very much encouraged to see the Imperial Couple pray for the people’s happiness and peace, and feel the people’s sorrow as their own,” Obuchi said.

Meanwhile, some 50,000 people flocked around a specially built stage set up by Nijubashi Bridge in front of the Imperial Palace, where a civic concert was to be held.

Fans were blocked off by steel pipes and rows of security officers, as baseball pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka, members of the Japanese idol pop group Speed and million-
record selling rock group Glay congratulated the Imperial Couple.

Eager participants lined up at dawn under light rain.

“I wanted a good spot and came at 5 a.m.,” said a 24-year-old woman from Kawasaki. Her hair dyed yellow, she said, “I wanted to be sure to see the pianist (and former X Japan member) Yoshiki, but I’m worried about the weather.”

The Imperial Couple appeared on Nijubashi Bridge to speak to the audience during the last half of the festivities.

Also in front of the palace, some 3,300 people lined up by 1 p.m. to sign their names to congratulatory registers laid out beneath tents.

Nationwide, post offices sold a selection of three kinds of commemorative stamps placed in a sheet with the imprint of a phoenix, a symbol of everlasting reign. When the Central Tokyo Post Office opened in front of JR Tokyo Station, about 500 people were lined up to purchase the stamps.

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