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A tree planting festival that was postponed earlier due to the coronavirus crisis was held on Sunday in Oda, Shimane Prefecture, with Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako attending the event remotely from their residence in Tokyo.

The couple’s Akasaka Imperial Residence in the capital’s Minato Ward and Mount Sanbe in the Shimane city, the venue for the 71st National Tree Planting Festival, was linked via video.

Expressing respect and gratitude to people who are working strenuously to contain the coronavirus crisis, Emperor Naruhito said, “Passing precious forests down to future generations in a healthy shape is our critical mission.”

The emperor also said it was regrettable that he was unable to visit the venue in Oda in person.

For the event, a Japanese black pine tree that was planted at Mount Sanbe by Emperor Hirohito at the 22nd National Tree Planting Festival in 1971 and previously attended to by the current emperor when he was the crown prince was transported to the premises of the imperial residence.

The emperor cut part of a 12-meter-long branch from the tree using a saw. Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako then planted young cedar trees and saplings of yamazakura, a kind of cherry tree, in wooden boxes that will be sent to the Shimane city at a later date.

Emperor Hirohito is grandfather of the current Emperor and posthumously known as Emperor Showa.

Amid the coronavirus crisis, Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako have interacted online with people around the country, including those who survived the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami in the Tohoku region.

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