Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko met evacuees from the March 2011 tsunami-triggered nuclear disaster on Saturday as they began a three-day visit to Fukushima that was expected to be their last to the region before his abdication next year.

The Imperial Couple visited a housing complex in Iwaki and met residents who fled the towns of Futaba and Namie near the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

"I imagine you all are going through a lot of difficulties, but I hope you overcome them and make good lives here," the Emperor said as he sat down with some of the residents.