Emperor Akihito, marking his 73rd birthday Saturday, reaffirmed the importance of mourning the war dead but avoided mention of Yasukuni Shrine, the subject of heated debate regarding visits by political leaders.
Well-wishers wave to the Emperor as he appears Saturday at the Imperial Palace for his 73rd birthday.
On the September birth of Prince Hisahito, his first grandson and the first heir to the throne in 41 years, the Emperor said his first impression was that the prince was “a very fine and healthy baby.”
“A recent image of Hisahito I have in my mind is of him gazing up at me while I am near him,” he said.
Regarding the education of the future potential emperor, the Emperor said, “I believe that for the time being it is important for him to be reared with the loving affection” of his parents and two elder sisters.
Prince Hisahito, the first son of Prince Akishino, the emperor’s second son, and Princess Kiko, is third in line to the throne after Crown Prince Naruhito, the Emperor’s eldest son, and Prince Akishino.
On Saturday, the Emperor expressed gratitude to thousands of well-wishers who gathered at the Imperial Palace for his birthday.
“I thank you for congratulating me on my birthday . . . I hope the coming year will become a bright and happy one for you,” the Emperor said from the glassed-in balcony of the palace’s main building, while the crowd waved Hinomaru flags and shouted the traditional banzai cheer.
An estimated 16,400 people gathered for his three appearances during the morning. The estimate was 2,400 more than last year, the Imperial Household Agency said.
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