In birthday speech, Japan’s emperor expresses sorrow for people suffering in war

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Japan’s Emperor Naruhito expressed deep sorrow for the suffering of people in conflicts around the world and stressed the importance of dialogue and cooperation in remarks released for his 63rd birthday Thursday.

Naruhito did not name other countries in his carefully nuanced remarks days before the one-year anniversary of the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

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He said many people affected by war and conflicts have been killed, injured and forced into homelessness, sadness and fear, while others elsewhere suffer under oppression, poverty and prejudices.

“I feel deep sorrow for the difficult reality that the world faces,” Naruhito said at a palace news conference for Japanese media ahead of his birthday.

For all people to live peacefully and free of sadness and pain, “I strongly feel the importance for every country to think not only about itself but to engage in dialogue to overcome differences and cooperate in solving problems,” he said. “We face a question of what each of us can do to achieve a peaceful world.”

On Thursday morning, Naruhito greeted well-wishers cheering and waving small Japanese flags who were allowed to gather at the palace to celebrate his birthday for the first time since he ascended the Chrysanthemum Throne in 2019 after a three-year hiatus due to the pandemic.

“I’m truly delighted to have my birthday celebration with everyone this way for the first time (as Emperor),” he said in a short address from the palace balcony.

He and his family all were dressed formally and wore masks during the brief appearance. Naruhito was accompanied by Empress Masako and their daughter, Princess Aiko, now 23, as well as Naruhito’s younger brother, Crown Prince Akishino, and his family.

Naruhito, who marks his 30th wedding anniversary in June with Masako, thanked her for spending half of her life with him. “I thank her from the bottom of my heart and I’m deeply emotional.”

“For nearly 30 years, we had many experiences together and helped each other, while sharing joy and sorrow.”

A Harvard-educated former diplomat, Masako has struggled with depression and other stress-induced symptoms she developed soon after giving birth to Aiko and facing pressure to have a son to continue Japan’s male-only imperial succession.

Read more: Japanese Emperor’s daughter Princess Aiko celebrates coming of age

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