Japanese Emperor Akihito turned 76 on Wednesday, wishing his people an early economic recovery in the coming year and voicing hope that the country would not be crippled by a resurgent swine flu pandemic.

"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," he said in a birthday statement.

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

The emperor added: "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."

The son of wartime emperor Hirohito said he had been in a good health in a year in which he marked 20 years on the Chrysanthemum Throne and 50 years of marriage to Empress Michiko.

"My health is now better than it was last December, and I would like to spend the coming year as I did this year and I will try not to give people cause for concern."

The emperor underwent a surgery to remove prostate cancer in 2003 and suffered an irregular pulse last year, and the palace has lightened his schedule of official functions.

Nearly 24,000 people visited the palace in the morning alone, the largest number since 1989, when he took the throne of the world's oldest monarchy, the palace said.

The emperor greeted the flag-waving wellwishers, appearing three times on the glass-shielded balcony with the empress.

Crown Prince Naruhito and Crown Princess Masako, as well as the emperor's second son Prince Akishino and his wife Princess Kiko, joined him on the balcony.












日本明仁天皇迎来76岁生日: http://insuns.com/article/19299-1.html