Japan emperor turns 75, frets over economy, health

Tue Dec 23, 2008 9:16am EST
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By Yoko Kubota

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan's Emperor Akihito, who turned 75 on Tuesday and is nearing his 20th anniversary on the throne, expressed his concern for those hit by the global financial crisis as he stood in front of hundreds of well-wishers.

Akihito's birthday comes at a time when recession is deepening in Japan.

It also follows cancellations of his duties earlier this month due to stress-related health issues, including irregular pulse and bleeding in the stomach.

While the symptoms are reported to have subsided since then, the emperor had canceled the annual news conference that was to be held ahead of his birthday, citing calls by his doctors to cut back on his workload.

But on his birthday, he waved and smiled at well-wishers gathered in the cold at the imperial palace in Tokyo, as they held the national flag and yelled "long live the emperor."

"I am worried that there may be many people who are struggling at the end of the year amid the severe economic conditions," Akihito said as he stood with his wife, two sons and daughters-in-law on a balcony shielded by glass.

"I hope that everyone will be in good health to celebrate the New Year," he said in a stable voice.

Akihito, who had prostate cancer surgery in 2003, also spoke about his own health.   Continued...

<p>Well-wishers wave Japan's national flags during Emperor Akihito's 75th birthday at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo in Tokyo December 23, 2008. REUTERS/Toru Hanai</p>