Emperor thanks people for support during 30-year reign; urges Japan to open up to world

Emperor Akihito thanked the Japanese people Sunday for their support in carrying out his duties and expressed appreciation for their "strong wish for peace" that led the country to experience no war over the past 30 years under his reign.
"It was fortunate that I have been able to undertake duties with the help of people," the 85-year-old emperor said in a government-sponsored ceremony marking his reign held at the National Theatre of Japan in Tokyo before his abdication scheduled for April 30. About 1,100 people, including foreign ambassadors, attended the event.
He expressed gratitude to "the people, in whom I take pride and for whom I feel joy in being 'the symbol of the state' and the civilization of this country built over the long period."
Looking back at the Heisei era that began with his enthronement in 1989, the emperor noted "many unexpected difficulties" faced by Japan, including natural disasters and aging of the society, and said the island nation is expected to "further open up itself" in a globalized world and establish relations with other countries.
Describing his quest to fulfill the role as the symbol of the state defined by the postwar Constitution as "never-ending," the emperor, who does not have political power, expressed hope that his successors will pursue the desirable status and build on what he has achieved.
Referring to a series of disasters that struck Japan during his reign, he said, "Affected people who endured many hardships and those from other parts of Japan who stood by them and offered support in various ways have become an unforgettable memory for me."
The emperor also thanked foreign countries and international organizations for their support for Japan when the country was "in the middle of suffering and sorrow" due to the disasters.
At a ceremony on April 30 to mark his abdication, the emperor is scheduled to give a final speech to the public.
Before the emperor delivered the address, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said the people will "never forget" how the imperial couple have "always stood by the people for 30 years."
Abe also said the couple's official visits to 35 countries since the emperor ascended the throne have strengthened friendly ties between Japan and those nations.
Fukushima Gov Masao Uchibori, whose northeastern prefecture was hit by a nuclear crisis in 2011, thanked the imperial couple for their encouraging messages and visits to the affected areas.
"The people of Fukushima were given the courage to move forward as they tried to recover from the globally unprecedented triple disaster of earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis," Uchibori said.
At the ceremony, singer Daichi Miura from Okinawa performed a song in the style of the southern island, "Utagoe no Hibiki" (Resonance of Singing Voices), written by the emperor following his first visit to the prefecture in 1975 and composed by Empress Michiko.
Another song, "Omoigo" (Endearing Child), composed by the empress as a lullaby for Crown Prince Naruhito, was sung by soprano Yumiko Samejima.
Emperor Akihito ascended the throne on Jan 7, 1989, following the death of his father Emperor Hirohito, posthumously known as Emperor Showa.
Emperor thanks people for support during 30-year reign; urges Japan to open up to world
Crown Prince Naruhito and Crown Prince Masako bow to Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko at a ceremony Sunday marking 30 years of the emperor's reign. Photo: KYODO
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