Japan emperor expresses sympathy for earthquake victims, plans disaster zone visit

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Tokyo: Japan Emperor Naruhito, marking his 64th birthday, expressed heartfelt condolences for the lives lost in a powerful earthquake that shook central Japan on New Year’s Day, as reported by Kyodo He extended sympathy to those displaced by the disaster and expressed his desire to visit affected areas on the Noto Peninsula in Ishikawa Prefecture alongside Empress Masako.

Speaking at a press conference held at the Imperial Palace ahead of his birthday, the emperor conveyed his deep sorrow for the multitude affected and compelled to evacuate due to the calamity. “My heart truly aches for the many people who have been affected and those who have been forced to evacuate,” he remarked solemnly.

According to Kyodo News, expressing hope for smooth progress in recovery and reconstruction efforts, Emperor Naruhito appreciated the dedication of professionals engaged in relief and medical support activities. Reflecting on positive strides made over the past year, the emperor highlighted the easing of novel coronavirus restrictions.

He noted the government’s decision to downgrade the legal status of COVID-19, aligning it with seasonal influenza, as a significant development. “It was a year in which we could clearly see bright developments in the process of people’s daily lives returning to normalcy,” the emperor remarked, as per Kyodo News.

Naruhito expressed joy in resuming his duties, attending various ceremonies and events in line with the easing of COVID restrictions. “I had heartwarming moments when I directly listened to a variety of people and saw their smiles at the places I went,” he said.

In June last year, the emperor visited Iwate Prefecture, northeastern Japan,where he attended the national tree-planting festival and engaged in conversations with survivors of the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster.
“I was touched by their tireless efforts despite numerous challenges,” he said.

Expressing gratitude towards Empress Masako, the emperor acknowledged her continued support over their 30 years together. He also shared his delight in Princess Aiko’s decision to join the Japanese Red Cross Society in April, expressing hope for her personal growth through diverse experiences.

“I hope she will further broaden her horizons by gaining various experiences,” he said. The emperor, together with other members of the imperial family, waved to well-wishers from a balcony at the palace on today’s morning. While those wishing to attend do not need to apply in advance, unlike last year, the number of people allowed entry to each of the three greeting sessions is capped at 20,000 to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

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