Emperor Akihito, who underwent a prostate cancer operation last month, was released Saturday afternoon from a Tokyo hospital, the Imperial Household Agency said.

The Emperor left the hospital around 4 p.m. with Empress Michiko, who accompanied him during his three-week hospitalization.

The 69-year-old Emperor was admitted to the University of Tokyo Hospital on Jan. 16 and underwent surgery to remove the prostate gland Jan. 18.

The Emperor will recuperate for the time being and refrain from any public duties for about a month, the agency said.

Crown Prince Naruhito took over the Emperor’s public duties after he was hospitalized.

The Emperor was initially scheduled to stay in the hospital for about one month, but doctors recommended an early release because the Emperor has made a steady recovery, according to the agency.

Upon his return to the Imperial Palace, the Emperor released a statement expressing gratitude to everyone who had wished him well. He also said he would pray for the recovery of all people suffering from illnesses.

Ichiro Kanazawa, the Imperial Household’s medical supervisor, said earlier that the cancerous tissues had been entirely removed and had not spread to other parts of the Emperor’s body.

The Emperor will have regular checkups, including blood tests, to ensure the cancer does not recur.

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