Photo/Illutration Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako listen to lectures from experts on the novel coronavirus at the Akasaka Imperial Residence in Tokyo on April 10. (Provided by the Imperial Household Agency)

Emperor Naruhito marked the first anniversary of his enthronement on May 1, distressed that restrictions on his activities due to the new coronavirus pandemic mean that he and Empress Masako are unable to engage directly with the public.

The couple cherish their opportunities to meet face-to-face with members of the public, a style of engagement that was trail-blazed by his parents, Emperor Emeritus Akihito and Empress Emerita Michiko.

Naruhito and Masako are always greeted with outpourings of public affection wherever they go.

However, all their outdoor public duties, events and ceremonies have been canceled or postponed due to the health crisis.

A close aide said the couple has expressed deep concern about the spread of the virus and their hopes that it will soon be brought under control.

In April, the couple invited medical professionals who specialize in infectious diseases to their Tokyo residence to hear the views on bringing the epidemic under control.

Among them was Shigeru Omi, vice chairman of a panel of experts advising the government on the novel coronavirus.

Naruhito told Omi, “I sincerely hope all of us will pull together even more than we have done so far to contain the outbreak and overcome difficulties we are facing now.”

(This article was written by Tatsuro Sugiura and Aya Nagatani.)