Thu, Jan 08, 2009 - Page 5 News List

Japan’s emperor marks 20th anniversary of reign


Japanese Emperor Akihito commemorated the 20th anniversary of his reign yesterday with a visit to the grave of his father, Hirohito.

Akihito, 75, was joined by Empress Michiko, Prime Minister Taro Aso and dozens of others at the grave on Tokyo’s outskirts.

Akihito’s son, Crown Prince Naruhito, and Crown Princess Masako held a small observance of their own at the Imperial Palace.

Akihito assumed the Chrysanthemum Throne after Hirohito died on Jan. 7, 1989.

The anniversary comes as Akihito has cut back his official duties due to an irregular pulse and bleeding from his stomach — symptoms imperial doctors have attributed to “mental stress.” He has also undergone surgery and treatment for cancer.

Hirohito reigned when Japan invaded Asia in his name during the 1930s and 1940s, and his responsibility for wartime atrocities committed by Japanese troops remains a major topic of historical debate. Yesterday’s observance was without incident, however.

On his birthday last month, Akihito assured the nation his health was improving.

Though no longer revered as living gods, members of the imperial family live tightly regimented lives and have been known to suffer from stress-related illnesses.

Crown Princess Masako, 45, withdrew from most of her official duties and appearances several years ago because of a nervous disorder attributed to the difficulties she felt adjusting to palace life and the pressure to bear a son to continue the imperial line.

Empress Michiko, 74, has also often complained of stress and suffered a breakdown in the early 1990s that rendered her unable to speak for months.

Succession concerns are also believed to be a major source of worry. Under a post-World War II law, only males are allowed to assume the throne.

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