Japanese emperor's heart bypass operation a success

Sat Feb 18, 2012 6:37am EST
 
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The latest surgery could prompt the royal agency to further limit the emperor's activities.

"Considering the fact that the emperor will not be getting any younger, we will continue to review the amount of duties he performs," said Ichiro Kanazawa, the Imperial Household Agency's medical supervisor.

Save for rare occasions, the Japanese imperial family is spared the intense public attention or media scrutiny that Britain's royals get.

But it serves as a comforting link with tradition at times of distress.

Five days after a devastating earthquake and tsunami struck northeastern Japan on March 11, Akihito made a rare public televised address and in April travelled to the disaster area with Empress Michiko.

Akihito's hospital stay last year gave Japan a rare opportunity to see his heir Crown Prince Naruhito, 51, step in for his father and perform public duties.

While Akihito's reign was defined by his reconciliation efforts, it is less clear what role the scholarly Naruhito may play, though royal commentators expect him to continue his father's efforts to reach out to ordinary citizens.

(Additional reporting by Elaine Lies, Kiyoshi Takenaka and Linda Sieg; Editing by Robert Birsel)

 
Japanese Emperor Akihito (2nd R) and Empress Michiko (R) are greeted by doctors upon their arrival at the entrance of the University of Tokyo Hospital in Tokyo February 17, 2012. Emperor Akihito was admitted to a Tokyo hospital on Friday to prepare for heart surgery set for Saturday. Akihito, 78, has been receiving treatment for heart problems for the past year, and doctors decided last week that he needs a coronary bypass operation. REUTERS/Toshifumi Kitamura/Pool