April 25, 2015 -- 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.

Queen Sonja Visits Crisis Shelter

Posted in: Norway

The Queen of Norway spent Tuesday at an Oslo Crisis Center for women and children. She met with the shelter’s administrators and the people who are staying there for Christmas. Queen Sonja Shelter 300x214 Queen Sonja Visits Crisis Shelter

Upon arriving, Queen Sonja was greeted by the center’s manager, Inger-Lise Larsen Walmsness. The manager briefed the Queen for a half-hour before the two moved on touring the shelter.

The Queen eventually went to the center’s main room, where 25 women and children were decorating a gingerbread. Sonja sat down and helped them with their handiwork. She certainly has some experience with gingerbread – last week, the Norwegian royal family distributed Christmas pictures of them making a gingerbread house.

Before leaving, Queen Sonja was given a tour of the children’s room. An eleven year-old girl at the shelter gave her a collage as a thank you for visiting.

The Oslo Crisis Center is the oldest such place in Norway. It is also the largest, with 86 beds. This is the shelter’s 31st year.

Prince William Spends Night in Streets for Charity

Posted in: United Kingdom

The young man who will one day be King of Great Britain, spent a night in London’s alleyways to better understand the plight of the homeless. Prince William did this for the homeless charity, Centrepoint, which he is patron of.

Prince William Centrepoint 300x225 Prince William Spends Night in Streets for Charity

Centrepoint Handout via AFP

The Prince, along with Seyi Obakin, chief executive of Centrepoint and a few others, slept near the Thames River on cardboard boxes as temperatures fell to 25 degrees Fahrenheit (minus zero Celsius).

“I cannot, after one night, even begin to imagine what it must be like to sleep rough on London’s streets night after night,” William said after his experience.

“There was no shielding from the bitter cold or the hard concrete floor or the fear of being accosted by drug dealers, pimps or those out to give homeless people a good kicking,” Obakin explained. “One of the hairiest moments occurred when we were almost run over by a road sweeper which simply didn’t see our small group huddled together, which just goes to show how vulnerable rough sleepers are.”

Prince William once said he does not want to be a royal “ornament” and spend his time cutting ribbons. He also added that he wants to make a difference in people’s lives.

The person who most likely influenced William’s focus was his mother, the late Princess Diana. She was a patron of Centrepoint before her 1997 death, and often brought William and his brother Harry to visit the homeless to see the other side of life.

“Poverty, mental illness, drug and alcohol dependency and family breakdown cause people to become and then stay homeless. I hope that by deepening my understanding of the issue, I can help do my bit to help the most vulnerable on our streets,” the Prince said.

Queen Rania Wins FIFA Presidential Award

Posted in: Jordan

The Queen of Jordan’s work for the 1Goal education campaign made her the recipient of the FIFA Presidential Award today in Switzerland.

Queen Rania FIFA 249x300 Queen Rania Wins FIFA Presidential Award

AP Photo/Keystone, Walter Bieri

“We have a long way to go, with lots of hurdles to overcome,” Queen Rania said upon accepting the award. “But I hope that many more people will join us in our journey towards a world in which all children can realize their dreams of getting a proper education.”

Launched this past summer at Wembley Stadium, 1Goal is dedicated to making education universal. FIFA is a supporter of this campaign, and Queen Rania is 1Goal’s co-chairperson. It is partnered with the Global Campaign for Education.

“Today, in numerous countries around the globe, too many young children find themselves sentenced to a life of poverty and desperation through no fault of their own,” Queen Rania said. “If we can take these children off the streets and get them into schools, we have a chance to turn this situation around, providing new hope to these families, communities and countries as we move forward. By investing in the education of the next generation, we can create a more developed, equitable society.”

1Goal hopes that during the 2010 World Cup, millions of signatures can be collected to move the campaign forward. Its goal is to have 75 million children in schools by 2015.

“When new world champions are crowned next year, we can make the World Cup’s crowning achievement echo beyond the final whistle,” the Queen said.

Belgian King Gives Apartments to Homeless Families

Posted in: Belgium

King Albert II1 201x300 Belgian King Gives Apartments to Homeless Families

JOHN THYS/AFP/Getty Images

The King of the Belgians has opened apartment spaces to give shelter to two homeless families during the cold winter. The apartments are owned by the Royal Trust, a set of properties made available by the sovereign state near the royal castle in Ciergnon Ardennes.

While King Albert II and the rest of the royal family do not own these apartments, but they are part of the royal palaces.

“This is truly the will of the King and the royal family to this provision. I emphasize this strong positive step in the right direction,” said Secretary of State, Philippe Courard.

Belgium has been experiencing bitter cold temperatures and snowy weather as of late. There have been reports of families who have applied for political asylum found themselves staying in train stations to keep warm.

Liechtenstein Cancels London Art Exhibit

Posted in: Liechtenstein

Prince Hans Adam II of Liechtenstein called off a much anticipated art exhibit at London’s Royal Academy of Arts Thursday, due to a row over a painting taken hold of in Britain.

Prince Hans Adam II Liechtenstein Cancels London Art Exhibit


The Spanish Renaissance artwork at the center of this dispute, “The Infante Don Diego” by Sanchez Coello, was purchased by the Prince in 2006, but due to the British customs, it has been impounded since 2007. Because this problem has not yet been resolved, Hans Adam pulled out of the exhibition which would have shown pieces of art owned by Liechtenstein’s ruling family.

“After many months of planning… we are, of course, very disappointed that the Prince of Liechtenstein has decided to cancel the exhibition,” said the Royal Academy in a statement.

“This is owing to an unrelated criminal inquiry into the export of a group of pictures bought in London by the Prince over three years ago.”

The exhibition was supposed to run from September to December of 2010. The Royal Academy was looking forward to the event, and had hoped for a major success.

“The Prince does not think it is appropriate to proceed with the planned exhibition until the matter of a painting by Sanchez Coello is resolved,” said Johann Kraeftner, director of the Prince of Liechtenstein collections.

“When that happens we will reconsider the idea of a show at the Royal Academy at some future date,” he added.