TOKYO The emperor of Japan prayed on Monday for world peace in his traditional New Year message and expressed his hopes for people to have calm and spiritually rich lives in 2017.
I pray for peace and happiness for the people of Japan and the people of the world, said Akihito, 83, in a greeting from the balcony of the Imperial Palace in Tokyo, where he was joined by Empress Michiko, Crown Prince Naruhito, his wife Masako, Princes Akishino and their two daughters Mako and Kako, according to Japanese news agency Kyodo.
It is my hope that people can lead calm and spiritually rich lives this year, Akihito told the crowd during the first of his appearances scheduled for Monday.
This year, however, marked a change for the emperor as he did not give out his customary written New Year message a tradition he has been maintaining since his accession to the throne in 1989 to lighten his royal workload.
The gesture, intended to reduce his royal duties, comes after Akihito announced his desire to abdicate in favor of son Naruhito, 56, due to his advanced age and poor health in summer.
Given that the Japanese constitution does not have any provision for abdication, the government has set up a committee to draft special legislation to allow the head of state to transfer his powers around 2018.
Akihito, who recovered from a fever recently, has been suffering from health issues for the last few years having undergone bypass surgery in 2012 and suffered prostate cancer in 2003, after which he developed osteoporosis as a side effect of the prescribed hormonal therapy.