Photo/IllutrationEmperor Akihito and Empress Michiko greet well-wishers from a balcony at the Imperial Palace on Jan. 2. (Hiroyuki Yamamoto)

  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion

Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko, joined by other members of the imperial family, offered New Year's greetings to more than 120,000 well-wishers gathered at the Imperial Palace on Jan. 2.

“Happy New Year, I am truly delighted to be able to celebrate the New Year with you,” said Akihito, addressing the crowd by microphone from the balcony. “I hope that this year will turn out to be a calming and enriching year for all of you. I also wish happiness for people in Japan and the rest of the world.”

According to the Imperial Household Agency, 126,720 well-wishers gathered for the five appearances by the imperial family, the largest turnout for New Year's greetings during the Heisei Era, as Akihito's reign is known.

Akihito was also greeted by 52,300 well-wishers on Dec. 23, his 84th birthday. The figure was a record since he ascended to the Chrysanthemum Throne in 1989.

This will be his last full year as emperor as he is due to abdicate on April 30, 2019.

The emperor and empress were joined Jan. 2 by Crown Prince Naruhito, Crown Princess Masako, Prince Fumihito and his wife Princess Kiko, the couple's daughter Princess Mako, and other royals.

It was Mako's last time to offer New Year greetings as a member of the imperial family due to her marriage later this year to Kei Komuro, her classmate from university. She will lose her royal status after she is married to a commoner.