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Japan's emperor Akihito wishes for peace in New Year greeting

Japan's Emperor Akihito has expressed his hope for world peace as he appeared with his wife, sons and grandchildren behind bullet-proof glass before thousands of well-wishers waving flags.

"From the start of this New Year, I pray for peace for our nation and for the world," Akihito told the crowd in Tokyo.

Akihito, 82, who was due to make five such appearances at the Imperial Palace, also released a New Year's statement in which he expressed his sympathy for people displaced from their homes and still living in temporary housing after the March 2011 tsunami and nuclear disaster in the north east.

Empress Michiko, wearing a pinkish beige dress, waved to the morning crowd, estimated by public broadcaster NHK at 44,000.

Masako, wife of the crown prince who has made rare public appearances because of a stress-related illness, also joined the New Year greeting in Tokyo, smiling in a deep blue dress.

Akihito is the son of Hirohito under whose name Japan waged the Second World War and surrendered 70 years ago. But from the start, he has stood for peace.

His role is symbolic and he holds no political power, but he is relatively popular with the people.

Michiko was the first commoner to marry into the Japanese royal family and she also has at times suffered from stress, like Harvard-educated Masako, a former diplomat.


From Belfast Telegraph