New Year's Day is the biggest holiday in Japan's calendar, but this year's festivities were subdued following record highs in new coronavirus cases nationwide and calls from the government to stay home.

Emperor Naruhito appealed to the public to work together through the pandemic in a prerecorded video address released on Friday.

"I am wishing from my heart that everyone can move forward during this hard time by supporting and helping one another," he said in the address, which was released in place of an annual public appearance by the imperial family during the New Year holidays. The annual event was cancelled this year because of the pandemic.