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Emperor's New Year Greeting Event Cancelled Amid Ongoing Rescue Efforts in the Noto Region

After releasing their New Year message, Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako expressed their deep concern and sympathy to those affected by the earthquakes.



Emperor Naruhito, Empress Masako, and their daughter, Princess Aiko, are captured in a New Year photo alongside an ornament featuring the zodiac sign tatsu (dragon). December 23, 2023, at the Imperial Palace. (©The Imperial Household Agency)

Late on January 1, the Imperial Household Agency announced the cancelation of the Emperor's New Year greeting at the Imperial Palace.  The greeting is an annual event scheduled for January 2. Its cancellation was made in consideration of the human and property damage caused by a cluster of earthquakes in the Noto Peninsula region of Ishikawa Prefecture. 

The earthquakes also caused landslides that destroyed these three houses in Animizu Town, Ishikawa Prefecture. Self-Defense Forces were heading out to search at 7:49 AM. on January 2. (© Sankei by Satoshi Yamada)

The earthquakes, which reached a maximum seismic intensity of 7, caused significant damage to the affected areas. A decision was made to forgo the event, given the need for extensive rescue operations by the fire department, police, and the Self-Defense Forces.

His Majesty Emperor Naruhito and Her Majesty Empress Masako expressed their deep concern and sympathy to those affected by the disaster. They also conveyed their hope for the swift progress of life-saving and firefighting activities. In particular, they noted the hardships due to the severe cold weather. The decision to cancel the event reflects the heartfelt considerations of the Imperial couple in light of these circumstances.

White smoke rises in Wajima, Ishikawa Prefecture. Adding to damage from the earthquakes, fire also destroyed a largely residential neighborhood in Wajima. January 2, 2024. (Drone image, shared by Yorimitsu Kazuhiro)

Unprecedented Cancellation Due to Natural Disaster

The New Year greeting event is a time-honored tradition. In it, the Emperor and Empress, accompanied by other members of the imperial family, greet the people from the palace balcony and also receive their well wishes.

The cancellation of the event due to a natural disaster is unprecedented. However, it has been cancelled in the past for different reasons. For example, this was the case in 1990, a year after Emperor Showa's passing. It was also cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2021 and 2022. 

In 1996, the Emperor's birthday greeting was also cancelled due to a large-scale ongoing hostage crisis at the Japanese ambassador's residence in Lima, Peru.

The Emperor, Empress, and their daughter, sit for a family photo with an ornament featuring the zodiac sign tatsu (dragon). December 23, 2023, at the Imperial Palace. (©The Imperial Household Agency)

Imperial Family Extends Wishes for 'A Year of Bright Hope' Amidst Challenges

Earlier before the cluster of tremors began off the Ishikawa Prefecture coast, the Emperor released a message of hope for the coming year.

Emperor Emeritus and Empress Emerita engage in conversation at their residence in Sento Imperial Residence. December 11, 2023. (©The Imperial Household Agency)

The Imperial Family welcomed 2024 with tranquility. In observance of the New Year, the Imperial Household Agency shared photos and videos capturing the Emperor, Empress, and their daughter, Princess Aiko. They were engaged in warm conversations at both the Imperial Palace and Imperial Residence. 

An ornament featuring the zodiac sign for this year, tatsu (dragon) adorned the scene. Despite the reclassification of COVID-19 under infection prevention laws, precautionary measures were diligently observed. The Emperor Emeritus, Empress Emerita, and the Akishino family joined the photo sessions from their respective residences.

Crown Prince and Crown Princess Akishino, along with their daughter Princess Kako and son Prince Hisahito, view photos from their official visit to Vietnam in September 2023. On December 19, at the Akasaka Residence. (©The Imperial Household Agency)

Emperor Naruhito's Reflections for the New Year

On New Year's Day, Emperor Naruhito shared his reflections through the Imperial Household Agency. His heartfelt concern extended to the nation. He acknowledged that "many people have faced hardships due to disasters and rising prices." Then he expressed a sincere wish for the expansion of a "circle of support" for those in need.

Moreover, Emperor Naruhito conveyed deep sorrow for the numerous lives lost in wars and conflicts across the globe. He concluded with a prayer for the upcoming year, aspiring that "it be filled with a radiant sense of hope, enabling the people of Japan and the world to walk forward with positive anticipation."


(Read the article in Japanese.)

Author: The Sankei Shimbun


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