TOKYO – In a message on his 61st birthday, Japan’s Emperor Naruhito thanked the country on Tuesday for its “perseverance and strength” during the coronavirus pandemic.
Naruhito also expressed appreciation for the work of healthcare professionals and offered his condolences to those who have lost their loved ones to the virus.
His message comes at a time when the most populated regions of the country are under a state of emergency aimed at curbing a third wave of COVID-19 infections.
“I look forward to a bright future after the public overcomes the coronavirus pandemic with patience by cooperating with each other,” Naruhito said in his message, released by the Imperial Household Agency on Tuesday.
Tuesday is a national holiday in Japan in celebration of the birthday of the current emperor, who had planned to appear with Empress Masako and other members of his family on the balcony of the Imperial Palace in Tokyo to greet visitors, but the event was canceled due to the pandemic.
Naruhito also expressed his continued support for Masako, 57, who “is still in the process of recovering” from a long stress-induced illness that has afflicted her and kept her away from official events.
The emperor said he hoped to visit the northeastern Tohoku region, which was the worst affected by the devastating earthquake and tsunami that struck almost decade ago in March 2011 causing the death or disappearance of 18,000 people.
“If I have a chance, I hope to visit the affected areas with the passing of more than 10 years. I feel that the wounds of people affected by the disaster have not yet healed,” the emperor said.
Naruhito ascended to the throne on May 1, 2019, one day after his father Akihito became the first Japanese emperor to abdicate in more than two centuries.
Since early 2020, when the first COVID-19 cases were recorded in Japan, all traditional ceremonies and events in which the emperor usually participates have been canceled or scaled down.