Japanese Emperor Akihito yesterday had a successful heart bypass operation, public broadcaster NHK reported.
Emperor Akihito, 78, has been receiving treatment for heart problems for the past year and doctors decided last week that he needed a coronary bypass operation.
Emperor Akihito ascended to the throne after the death of his father, Emperor Hirohito, in 1989. He has spent much of the past two decades working to heal the wounds of a war waged across Asia in his father’s name and helped bring the monarchy closer to ordinary citizens.
The emperor checked into the University of Tokyo Hospital on Friday and is expected to remain hospitalized for about two weeks.
He had surgery for prostate cancer in 2003 and suffered stress-related health issues in late 2008. The following year, the royal agency said he would cut back on official duties, such as speeches and meeting foreign dignitaries.
Save for rare occasions, the Japanese imperial family is spared the intense public attention or media scrutiny that Britain’s royals get.
However, 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 last year, The emperor made a rare public televised address and in April traveled to the disaster area with Empress Michiko.
The emperor’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 Crown Prince Naruhito may play, though royal commentators expect him to continue his father’s efforts to reach out to ordinary citizens.