Many Japanese expressed surprise at the news Wednesday that Emperor Akihito plans to abdicate, but they said his wish should be respected.
The Imperial Couple left their Imperial villa in Hayama, Kanagawa Prefecture, on Thursday after arriving on Monday.
“The Emperor opened a car window and waved at us when I saw him near the villa. He appeared in good health,” an 82-year-old woman said on Thursday.
She added that she supported the Emperor’s desire to abdicate. “It is regrettable, but considering his age and health, that is probably the right thing to do,” she said.
In Tokyo, people spoke warmly of Emperor Akihito.
“I’ve been feeling close to the Emperor, who stood side by side with the people after the recent earthquakes,” said Rena Endo, 33, a Tokyo-based private tutor who was out for a run around the Imperial Palace.
The Emperor, 82, is renowned for carrying out a busy schedule of official duties, including travel to Tohoku and Kyushu — both recuperating from natural disasters — to meet with local residents.
After the Tohoku disaster, the Emperor and Empress Michiko visited the region for seven weeks in a row.
When the Imperial Couple visited Fukushima and Miyagi prefectures in March this year, they spent more time than had been scheduled listening to the survivors. “I was very encouraged by the Emperor. He had warm feelings toward us, I am very grateful,” said Narumi Abe, 55, from Onagawa, Miyagi Prefecture.
“When I saw him walk very slowly, I felt for his age. I want things to turn out the way he wants, and I wish him a good health,” she said.
The Imperial Couple have also traveled recently to such places as Palau and the Philippines to pay respects to those who died during World War II. They also visited Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which suffered from U.S. atomic bombings, and Okinawa, which experienced fierce ground battles during the war.
Yosuke Iguchi, a 38-year-old office worker walking near the palace grounds in Tokyo, expressed support for the Emperor’s wish to abdicate. He said the decision seemed to be prompted by age and health.
“I think it’s a courageous decision, considering his age and the Olympics,” Iguchi said, referring to the 2020 Games. “I have an impression that the Emperor has his own mind as an individual.”
Tadashi Maniwa, 59, who runs a cheesecake factory in Nasu, Tochigi Prefecture, remembers meeting the Emperor two years ago. There is an Imperial villa in Nasu.
“He came on a hot summer day. I wish to see him come again” in a different capacity, Maniwa said.
Before ascending the Chrysanthemum Throne, the Emperor visited a hotel in Karuizawa, a major tourist spot in Nagano Prefecture. Yasuharu Sato, 82, a former chairman of the hotel, expressed support for the Emperor’s desire to retire.
The Emperor “may want to relinquish his title while he is still in good shape,” Sato said.