Start Asia Japanese emperor bids farewell with emotional speech

Japanese emperor bids farewell with emotional speech

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Japan's Emperor Akihito delivers a speech to well-wishers from a balcony of the Imperial Palace as Empress Michiko listens during New Year's public appearance in Tokyo, Saturday, Jan. 2, 2016. (AP Photo/Koji Sasahara)

In an emotional speech, Japan’s Emperor Akihito said goodbye to his subjects before resigning next year. He felt „great comfort“ that his country had remained „free from war“ during his reign, Akihito said in a speech broadcast today on the occasion of his 85th birthday. The monarch’s fragile voice recalled the „countless“ people who died during the Second World War.

It is important not to forget that „after the war, Japan’s peace and prosperity builds on the numerous sacrifices and tireless efforts of the Japanese people,“ Akihito said. This story must be carefully passed on to those born after the war.

Elder son follows on May 1st

The emperor thanked his wife Michiko, who married in 1959 as the first commoners in the Japanese imperial family, that she had always stood by his side. The universally revered Akihito will abdicate in the coming year as the first Japanese monarch for more than two centuries. His eldest son, Crown Prince Naruhito, is due to climb the chrysanthemum throne on May 1st.

Akihito had come to the throne in 1989 after the death of his father Hirohito. During his reign, he repeatedly expressed his pacifist views, in sharp contrast to Japan’s aggressive expansionism under his father. He established the role of the emperor as a „symbol of the state“ in contrast to the divine status that his father had been denied after the war. He also sought to be closer to the Japanese people.