Emperor Naruhito greets citizens on his 63rd birthday

Emperor Naruhito greets citizens on his 63rd birthday
(L-R) Japan's former Empress Michiko, former Emperor Akihito, Emperor Naruhito, Empress Masako, their daughter Princess Aiko, Japanese Crown Prince Akishino, Crown Princess Kiko and their daughter Princess Kako wave to well-wishers for the New Year's greetings at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo on January 2, 2023. (Supplied)
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Updated 22 February 2023

Emperor Naruhito greets citizens on his 63rd birthday

Emperor Naruhito greets citizens on his 63rd birthday

TOKYO: On Feb. 23, Japanese citizens are going to be allowed into the grounds of the Imperial Palace in Tokyo to celebrate the emperor’s birthday.

Emperor Naruhito turns 63 on Thursday and is making a rare public appearance on the balcony of the Imperial Palace.

The emperor usually makes these appearances on his birthday and at New Year. Naruhito’s greeting earlier this year was his first in three years due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Emperor Naruhito appeared alongside Empress Masako, their daughter, Princess Aiko, and other Imperial Family members including Emperor Emeritus Akihito, Empress Emerita Michiko, Crown Prince Fumihito and his wife, Crown Princess Kiko. The Imperial Family appear behind a glass screen on the balcony of the Chowa-den Hall.

The emperor usually makes a few remarks and then waves to the flag-waving crowd at the palace.

These are two rare occasions when the general public can see the emperor. While he does make visits to various parts of the country, COVID-19 has severely restricted his schedule. 

“I have tried to have as many opportunities to interact with the public as possible, aiming to join people and stand by them even a little,” Naruhito told a press conference in February 2019, ahead of his enthronement. He did, however, travel to London last year for the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II.

He also made a rare visit to Okinawa last year with Empress Masako as they paid their respects to the victims of the bloodiest battle in the Pacific War. It was his first visit to Okinawa since his accession to the throne in 2019.

The couple visited the national cemetery for the war dead in Itoman City, the site of the final fighting in the bloody Battle of Okinawa between Japanese and US troops during World War II. The cemetery holds the remains of more than 180,000 people who died during the three months of fighting.

Naruhito is the first emperor to have been born after the war. Many people in Okinawa have mixed feelings toward emperors through the prefecture’s complicated history with the rest of Japan. Okinawa was once called the Ryukyu Kingdom, which existed for about 450 years until 1879. The Meiji government (1868-1912) ended its independent rule and transformed it into the prefecture of Okinawa.