Emperor Naruhito Voices Sympathy over Noto Quake at Palace Event

Tokyo, Feb. 23 (Jiji Press)—Japanese Emperor Naruhito on Friday mourned victims of a powerful earthquake that struck the Noto Peninsula in Ishikawa Prefecture, central Japan, on Jan. 1.

“I express my heartfelt sympathy to the bereaved families and those affected by the disaster,” the Emperor also said at an event to accept members of the public at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo for the celebration of his 64th birthday on Friday.

Emperor Naruhito thanked the well-wishers for coming despite the cold rain.

It is the first time in about four years that an event at the palace in which the Emperor and other members of the Imperial family greet members of the public has been held without conducting a lot to choose visitors in advance. The last event held without a lottery was a New Year’s gathering in January 2020.

Emperor Naruhito appeared at the balcony of the Chowa-den hall of the palace three times Friday morning with Empress Masako, the couple’s daughter, Princess Aiko, Crown Prince Akishino, Crown Princess Kiko, and their second daughter, Princess Kako.

The Emperor said: “I think many people have struggled with heavy snow and severe cold weather this winter. I hope each and every one of you will have a peaceful spring.”

For last year’s gathering to celebrate the Emperor’s birthday, the first such event held since Japan’s Reiwa era started in May 2019 with the Emperor’s enthronement, visitors to the palace were chosen by lot beforehand. The birthday celebration gathering was canceled for three straight years until 2022 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

An event on Jan. 2 this year for the Emperor and other Imperial family members to welcome the general public at the palace to celebrate the arrival of the new year was canceled in the wake of the Jan. 1 earthquake.

In light of the serious damage caused by the 7.6-magnitude quake, the Imperial Household Agency called on people visiting the palace for Friday’s event not to shout to celebrate Emperor Naruhito’s birthday.