Emperor Naruhito ‘grateful’ for strength of Japanese people amid pandemic

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On the occasion of his 61st birthday on Tuesday, Emperor Naruhito said he was grateful for the “persistence and strength of the people” in Japan in the face of the novel coronavirus pandemic and expressed his gratitude for the professionals of the health who worked hard.

The Emperor offered his condolences for the many losses suffered over the past year as a result of the virus, acknowledging the efforts individuals have made to prevent the spread of infections as well as the hardships and stress caused by the pandemic.

“I look forward to a bright future after the public weathered the coronavirus pandemic with patience by cooperating with each other,” he said at a press conference in Tokyo on Friday ahead of his birthday.

With Empress Masako, 57, the Emperor interacted online with health workers, experts, disaster victims, the elderly and people with disabilities. He also encouraged people to support each other amid the pandemic in a New Years video.

In his birthday message, the emperor expressed hope that he could visit the Tohoku region, which on March 11 will commemorate the 10th anniversary of an earthquake, tsunami and large-scale nuclear disaster. scale that killed around 16,000 people and left around 2,500 missing, mostly in Fukushima, Iwate and Miyagi prefectures.

“If I have the chance, I hope to visit the affected areas (to coincide) with the passage of more than 10 years,” he said. “I feel that the wounds of those affected by the disaster are not yet healed.”

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He added that a strong earthquake in the same region earlier this month reminded him once again that Japan “must think of the great earthquake in eastern Japan as part of the present, not just the past. “.

Asked about the planned marriage of her niece, Princess Mako, to her college boyfriend Kei Komuro, who was delayed over reports of a financial dispute involving his mother, the emperor said he hoped for “ a situation in which many people would be convinced and satisfied, as (his father) Crown Prince Akishino said, ‘regarding the union.

The Emperor declined to comment further on the issues involving the princess and her boyfriend, both 29.

The Crown Prince, 55, the emperor’s younger brother, told a press conference in November that he “approves” of his daughter’s marriage to Komuro if the couple are determined to marry, noting that the country’s constitution stipulates that marriage will be based solely on the mutual consent of both sexes.

But the prince, who in the past has said public support will be needed before the couple can proceed with an engagement ceremony, also said he believes the young couple are “not in a situation where many people are convinced and satisfied “with their marriage, and that Princess Mako is aware of it.

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Yasuhiko Nishimura, head of the Imperial Household Agency, urged Komuro to offer the public an explanation of the money conflict, which involves money that has been spent on his education.

The Emperor typically greets the public at the Imperial Palace to celebrate his birthday, but his speech has been canceled for the second year in a row to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

During his press conference, the emperor expressed concern at the increase in cases of domestic violence and child abuse, as well as the increase in suicide rates among women and young people due to the pandemic.

Regarding his immediate family, the emperor said he would continue to support his wife, who “is still recovering.” The Empress, who has long struggled with a stress-related illness, is prone to episodes of exhaustion from major events, he said.

He also spoke about his daughter, Princess Aiko, a Gakushuin University student who will become an adult member of the family when she turns 20 in December.

“I hope she learns from many people and that the experiences she has had broaden her views,” the emperor said of his daughter, who currently attends the Japanese language and literature department of the university.

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When asked about his daughter’s future wedding plans, the emperor said there would be opportunities to talk about her future, including the wedding.

Princes Aiko is the only child of the Imperial couple and is not an heir to the throne. The Imperial Household Law of 1947 states that only men of the paternal line can ascend the throne.

Asked about the possibility of female succession, amid concerns that the Imperial Household might run out of male heirs, the emperor declined to comment. The Japanese Imperial Family currently only has three heirs – the Crown Prince, his son Prince Hisahito, 14, and Prince Hitachi, 85, the emperor’s uncle.

Meanwhile, the emperor said he was “unhappy” that due to the pandemic he had fewer opportunities to meet his 87-year-old father, former Emperor Akihito, who abdicated in 2019, and the Crown Prince, but communicate with them. Therefore.

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