• Kyodo

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Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko took a morning walk outside their residence Sunday, viewing cherry blossoms in the outer Imperial Palace grounds in central Tokyo during a rare occasion that surprised joggers and other passersby.

It is likely to be their last such stroll during his reign as the 85-year-old Emperor is scheduled to abdicate on April 30.

The Imperial couple apparently took a breather amid a hectic schedule in relation to the abdication and the beginning of the Reiwa Era, which will begin with Crown Prince Naruhito’s ascension to the throne on May 1.

At around 7:10 a.m., the Emperor and Empress made an unannounced appearance near the Kitanomaru garden park and walked around for about 10 minutes, during which they exchanged greetings with people who were also walking there.

The couple, known for their morning strolls, walked the same route and viewed cherry blossoms also in 2017 and 2018.

The Imperial Palace grounds are famous for cherry trees, and the blossoms along Inui Street, which was open to the general public from March 30 through Sunday this year, have attracted hordes of people.

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