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Emperor Akihito turns 80, says post is 'lonely'

TOKYO--Thousands of people thronged Japan's Imperial Palace Monday to celebrate Emperor Akihito's 80th birthday, as he lauded his wife for standing by him in his “lonely” pursuit of leading the world's oldest monarchy.

Empress Michiko, a wealthy flour magnate's daughter, was the first commoner in modern times to marry into Japan's imperial family.

Following their fairy-tale wedding in 1959, Michiko, now 79, also became the first empress to raise her children herself, famously making them “bento” lunch boxes to take to school.

“Being an emperor can be a lonely state,” Akihito said in an interview released by the Imperial Household Agency on Monday.

“But ... it has given me comfort and joy to have by my side the empress, who has always respected my position and stood by me.

“And I feel most fortunate that I have been able to endeavor to carry out my role as emperor with the empress by my side,” said the ageing monarch, who inherited the Chrysanthemum Throne in 1989 upon his father Emperor Hirohito's death.

The soft-spoken monarch greeted well-wishers from a glass-covered balcony at the Imperial Palace overlooking the East Garden, flanked by Empress Michiko and other members of the royal household.

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Accompanied by royal family members, Japanese Emperor Akihito, third on the left, waves from the balcony to well-wishers celebrating his birthday at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo, yesterday.

(AFP)

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