December 22, 2014 -- Updated 4:10 pm GMT

Emperor Akihito Celebrates 76th Birthday

Posted in: Japan

The Emperor of Japan marked his 76th birthday by appearing on the balcony of the Imperial Palace in Tokyo. Hundreds of well-wishers cheered and waved Japanese flags as Emperor Akihito waved and gave a brief speech. He was joined by wife Empress Michiko, and later the Crown Princely couple, Prince Akishino and Princess Kiko.

Emperor Akihito1 266x300 Emperor Akihito Celebrates 76th Birthday

REUTERS/Yuriko Nakao

In his speech, the Emperor touched on the issues close to many in Japan, such as the economy which has taken a hit like many other countries this past year.

“The severe economic conditions have led to many difficulties. There seem to be many people who are struggling. I hope the coming year will be even a little better.”

Akihito also told the crowds that his health was doing better compared to last year. Back then, he suffered from a stomach ulcer brought on by stress.

One thing the Emperor did not do this year was hold a press conference marking his birthday. He likely did this because in November, Akihito held one in honor of his two decades on the Chrysanthemum Throne. He did, however, release a statement where again, he talked about the issues many Japanese are facing.

“The first thing that comes to my mind is the plight of the many people who are facing difficulties due to the severe economic conditions in our country, triggered by the global financial crisis,” the birthday statement said.

“It grieves my heart that there are people who have even lost their homes.”

“In autumn, there was an increase in the number of patients infected by the new strain of influenza H1N1… I am concerned as to how the situation will turn out in the coming year.

“I am hoping that preventive measures such as the implementation of the flu vaccine will prevent a pandemic.”

In Japan, the Emperor’s birthday is a national holiday. Many politicians, including Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, stopped by the Palace to congratulate Akihito in reaching 76 years of age.