Emperor Naruhito expressed his hopes for progress toward world peace on Saturday at the Imperial Palace, where tens of thousands of people gathered to witness his first public greeting since ascending to the throne on May 1.

"I am deeply blessed and grateful for everyone here today who has offered congratulations," the emperor said in a prepared statement. "Not only do I pray for everyone's health and happiness, I hope that our nation can join hands with countries around the world and together make progress toward achieving world peace."

More than 140,000 people gathered for greeting sessions scheduled from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., according to the Imperial Household Agency, in which members of the imperial family made roughly five-minute appearances once every hour. The figure exceeded around 109,800 for the former emperor's first public appearance in November 1990 following his ascension to the throne, according to the Imperial Household Agency.