Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako on Friday visited Ishikawa Prefecture, which was hit hard by a magnitude 7.6 earthquake on Jan. 1.

During their day trip, the imperial couple inspected afflicted areas in the prefecture's Noto Peninsula and met evacuees at a shelter.

On Friday morning, they arrived at Noto Airport in Wajima on a special plane from Tokyo's Haneda Airport.

Upon arrival, the couple was briefed by Ishikawa Gov. Hiroshi Hase on the situation in disaster-affected areas. Imperial Household Agency Grand Steward Yasuhiko Nishimura handed Hase consolation money from the couple.

Later, the couple flew to the Air Self-Defense Force's Wajima sub-base via a Self-Defense Force helicopter and inspected areas near the Asaichi-dori morning market street, where a blaze occurred following the quake. They bowed silently before the ruins left by the fire.

They also visited a facility used as a shelter that accommodates about 100 people, listened attentively to evacuees and gave them encouraging words.

The trip marked the couple's second visit to a disaster-hit area since the emperor's enthronement in 2019, following their trip in December that year to Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures, which were hit by a typhoon.

The couple was eager to visit Ishikawa early but refrained from doing so as they did not want to burden local people.

The emperor had said the couple has fond memories of their past trips to the prefecture, dating back to their days as students. The emperor had visited the prefecture more than 10 times, and the empress accompanied him on some of those occasions.

The Noto Peninsula quake left 241 people dead in Ishikawa, including 15 who died of indirect causes. The death toll stood at 102 in Wajima and 103 in the neighboring city of Suzu.