Imperial family’s 2023 New Year greeting might be open to public

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
Members of the Imperial family wave to the general public visiting the Imperial Palace for the New Year greeting on Jan. 2, 2020.

The Imperial family’s New Year greeting event will likely be open to the general public for the first time since the pandemic started.

The Imperial Household Agency is making arrangements to hold the event at the Imperial Palace on Jan. 2, 2023, in the manner it had been done annually through 2020, according to sources familiar with the matter.

The agency is also considering allowing the general public to visit Inui Street in the Imperial Palace grounds this autumn. This usually about a weeklong event held in spring and autumn had also been canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The schedule will be formally decided and announced soon. The agency plans to resume such Imperial events to get people acclimated to living with the virus.

For the New Year greeting, the Emperor, Empress and other members of the Imperial family stand on a balcony of the Imperial Palace to acknowledge the congratulations from the general public. In 2020, the first such event of the Reiwa era drew 68,710 visitors.

To avoid crowds in the yard in front of that balcony, the agency is planning to limit the number of visitors through an entry system. A drawing will be held if there are too many applications. The agency will ask participants to wear masks and take other infection prevention measures.

The Inui Street had been opened to the general public when the cherry blossoms and autumn leaves are at their best, with the last public viewing held in autumn 2019.

The agency’s plans may change, of course, depending on the novel coronavirus infection situation.