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Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko were congratulated on the 50th year of their marriage Friday with thousands of people signing congratulatory books and around 100 couples also celebrating their golden anniversaries this year attending a tea party at the Imperial Palace.

Prime Minister Taro Aso, ministers in his Cabinet and the heads of both Diet chambers also congratulated the Emperor, 75, and Empress, 74, at the palace.

The Emperor responded, “We will carry out our duties in line with the people’s expectations.”

Around 7,000 people visited tents set up in front of the Imperial Household Agency to sign congratulatory books, according to the agency.

In one of the tents, Kimi Nakamitsu, 69, from Saitama Prefecture, recalled watching on television the Imperial parade in Tokyo following the couple’s wedding 50 years ago and her astonishment that the then Crown Princess “was such a wonderful woman.”

“I imagine the two have experienced hardships and hope they will take care of their health,” Nakamitsu said.

Mark Hollingsworth, 49, and his wife, Jane, 47, from England, who will celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary in May, also visited the tent.

“Fifty years (of marriage) is a very long time, and I respect that,” said Hollingsworth, adding he hopes he and his wife can reach the 50-year mark.

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