Japanese Emperor Naruhito on Monday welcomed well-wishers at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo for the first time in three years, reviving an annual New Year tradition that has been put on hold during the Covid pandemic.
“Wars and conflicts still occur frequently around the world today, and I feel deep sadness that so many people have lost their lives. I firmly believe the importance of repeated dialogue and collaboration with others in the international community to resolve disagreements,” the 62-year-old Emperor said, according to a statement released earlier by the Imperial Household Agency on Sunday.
Pictures show the Emperor and the royal family behind a glass panel in the palace and wave to the crowd below. Many members of the public waved Japanese flags.
In abridged remarks on Monday, he wished everyone a “peaceful” 2023.
“I know there will be many difficulties, but I hope this year will be a peaceful and good one for all of you,” the Emperor said. From 2020 to 2022, Naruhito delivered his New Year’s address via video message.
Naruhito was accompanied by Empress Masako, her daughter Princess Aiko, and other family members. Under Japan’s male-only inheritance law, Princess Aiko is forbidden from becoming empress.
On Sunday, Naruhito attended a New Year reception at the Imperial Palace with foreign ambassadors.
For centuries, Japanese rulers were considered the living embodiment of gods—but after the US occupation of Japan, the country adopted a new constitution that prohibited the imperial family from engaging in political activities. Naruhito’s grandfather, Emperor Hirohito, was the last divine emperor.
Nowadays, Naruhito is a symbol of the state rather than the head of state and exercises no political power. Despite this lower public profile, the Emperor remains a revered figure in Japan.
Naruhito began his rule in 2019 after his father Akihito abdicated, becoming the first emperor in 200 years.