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Emperor Naruhito on Saturday marked two years since he ascended to the chrysanthemum throne as he continues to interact with citizens in unconventional methods due to the pandemic.

The emperor’s activities have been substantially restricted in the past year due to the epidemic, which prevented him from visiting many parts of the country.

Still, the emperor, along with Empress Masako, has adopted new forms of communication with the public, including online exchanges and the use of video messages.

His second year as emperor began in May 2020 during the nation’s first state of emergency due to the spread of the virus.

Although many events have been canceled or postponed, the imperial couple has frequently invited experts from medical, welfare, education and other fields to the Akasaka Imperial Residence to hear how the coronavirus is affecting people’s lives, while praising their efforts to tackle the crisis.

“I have developed a deeper feeling of thankfulness for the efforts made by all people,” the emperor recalled at his birthday news conference in February this year, when he turned 61.

He has referred to the coronavirus crisis on many occasions, stressing the importance of people joining hands to overcome the tough situation.

In the imperial couple’s first video message for the general public on New Year’s Day — which was made in lieu of their traditional public appearance — he said he was looking forward to being able to meet with citizens face to face.

Since November last year, the emperor has communicated with people online instead of making trips outside of Tokyo. This year, he has held online talks with victims of the July 2020 rain disaster in Kumamoto Prefecture and the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami in northeastern Japan.

“I was able to feel their warm care for people in disaster areas even without meeting them face to face,” Shiro Izawa, mayor of the town of Futaba Fukushima Prefecture, said of his online talks on Wednesday with the emperor and empress.

The emperor has said he plans to continue meeting people online amid the pandemic.

For an annual national tree-planting festival to be held in Oda, Shimane Prefecture, on May 30, the emperor plans to deliver his speech online for the first time and send footage of him planting a sapling in a pot in Tokyo.

From the time when he was crown prince there has been no change in his policy of responding sincerely to situations in a cordial manner, said former Grand Chamberlain Nobutake Odano, who retired from the post in April after supporting Naruhito for nearly five years.

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