TOKYO Ė The Imperial Household Agency of Japan announced on Friday its decision to cancel the emperorís traditional New Yearís greeting from the Imperial Palace in Tokyo due to the increase in COVID-19 cases in the country.
The institution, which manages the Japanese imperial familyís affairs, decided to avoid crowds at the event, held annually on Jan. 2, and attended by many elderly people, especially vulnerable to the virus.
Some 68,710 people attended the imperial palace of the Japanese capital in January for the event, during which the emperor, empress and other family members greet supporters from the balcony.
This was the first year in which current Japanese Emperor Naruhito participated, already establishing himself on the throne.
In 2019, the last year that his father and Former Emperor Akihito starred in the salute before abdicating and the spread of COVID, 154,800 people attended the event.
Next yearís will mark the first cancellation of the emperorís New Yearís greeting since 1990, when Japan was mourning the death the previous year of Emperor Hirohito, Naruhitoís grandfather.
Naruhito, who ascended to the throne on May 1, 2019, has already seen the emperorís traditional birthday greeting canceled by the virus, the first he was going to celebrate at the Head of State and which marked his 60th anniversary, at the end of February.
Amid the increase in infections in Japan, which has been recording daily case records since last week, the New Yearís greeting is the latest in a series of events by the imperial family that is canceled or postponed this year due to the health crisis.
Among them was the official ceremony for the proclamation of his brother Fumihito as Crown Prince of Japan, which took place on Nov. 8, seven months later than planned.