Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako attended the opening ceremony for festivals in the city of Niigata on Monday, their second visit outside Tokyo in as many weeks.

They were in Niigata for the 34th National Cultural Festival and the 19th Niigata National Arts and Culture Festival for Persons with Disabilities.

They have been attending the opening ceremony for the annual festivals, which are held in various locations on rotation, since their days as crown prince and crown princess. They decided to continue the practice after the imperial succession in May.

The emperor expressed hope Monday that the festivals will help boost exchanges among people, provide an opportunity to re-examine traditional arts and culture, and create an environment in which many people find it easy to gain access to arts and culture.

The imperial couple met with people who performed during the ceremony. The empress used sign language to express her gratitude to a deaf drummer.

On Tuesday, the couple visited a prefectural rehabilitation center for people with disabilities, before returning to Tokyo later in the day.

The couple visited Akita Prefecture last week. They are scheduled to be in Ibaraki Prefecture on Sept. 28 and 29.

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