TOKYO (AP) — Japan’s Emperor Naruhito waved to cheering, flag-waving crowds from a palace balcony Thursday in his first New Year’s greeting since ascending to the throne.
Naruhito and his wife Masako were joined by his parents, the former Emperor Akihito and his wife Michiko, in the appearance at the Imperial Palace. The 86-year-old Akihito stepped down in April last year in an extremely rare imperial abdication.
Naruhito told the crowd he was praying for world peace and noted the suffering of people in Japan affected by natural disasters last year.
“I hope this new year will be a year free of disasters, peaceful and good for all of you,” he said.
The public is closely watching how the younger and more international Naruhito and his wife might bring more openness to the imperial role, which holds no political power but is widely recognized as a cultural and emotional symbol for Japan.