Emperor Akihito offered his annual New Year’s greetings to well-wishers at the Imperial Palace on Monday.
“I hope that even in a small way this will be a better year for you, with recovery progressing in the disaster-hit areas,” the Emperor said from a balcony in the Chowa-Den wing of the palace in Tokyo, referring to areas hit by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.
Empress Michiko and other members of the Imperial family, including Crown Prince Naruhito and his wife Princess Masako, as well as Prince Akishino and his wife, Princess Kiko, joined the Emperor on the glassed-in balcony.
Princess Mako, who turned 20 and became an adult member of the Imperial family in October, also took part in the event for the first time with her parents, Prince Akishino and Princess Kiko.
The Emperor’s younger brother, Prince Hitachi, was absent due to health reasons.
On Sunday, the Emperor and Empress received New Year’s greetings from other Imperial family members, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, about 200 foreign ambassadors and their spouses. The monarch voiced hope in his New Year’s message for cooperative and patient efforts to rebuild society after the nation was devastated by last year’s natural disasters.
“It pained me greatly to see that many lives were lost to natural disasters. . . . My heart also goes out to the people who regrettably can no longer live in the places they used to live because of the radioactive contamination caused by the (Fukushima No. 1) nuclear plant (crisis),” the 78-year-old Emperor said in his message to the people issued earlier Sunday.