More than 75,000 well-wishers paid their respects to Emperor Akihito who turned 85 on Sunday, his last birthday celebration at Tokyo’s Imperial Palace before stepping down next year.
The birthday of the emperor, whose position is ceremonial with no political power, is traditionally marked by a national holiday and an address at the palace, which opens to the public on the day.
The morning crowd of 75,490, according to the Imperial Household Agency, was the largest birthday attendance during Akihito’s three-decade reign, known as the “Heisei” era, which means “achieving peace” in Japanese.
“It gives my deep comfort that the Heisei era is coming to an end, free of war in Japan,” Akihito, his voice trembling with emotion, said at a news conference at the palace that was recorded this past week and released Sunday. “It is important not to forget that countless lives were lost in World War II and that the peace and prosperity of postwar Japan was built upon the numerous sacrifices and tireless efforts made by the Japanese people, and to pass on this history accurately to those born after the war.”