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Japan’s emperor praises nation tackling disaster

    Emperor Akihito and his wife Empress Michiko wave at a crowd of well-wishers during a morning appearance through the bulletproof glass of a balcony at Imperial Palace in Tokyo Friday, Dec. 23, 2011, marking Akihito's 78th birthday. (AP Photo/Koji Sasahara)


Japan’s Emperor Akihito praised the compassion of a nation striving to overcome the earthquake and tsunami disasters, as he waved from his palace balcony to throngs of well-wishers for his 78th birthday today.

Akihito expressed gratitude to all who have worked in the aftermath of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, which devastated northeastern Japan and left 20,000 people dead or missing. Those he thanked included military personnel, residents of northeastern Japan, volunteers, workers at a hobbled nuclear plant and overseas contributors to relief efforts.

“Looking back on this year, I must say this has been a truly distressing year, dominated by disasters,” he said in a statement from the Imperial Household Agency. “I feel that the Japanese people have come together as a nation to squarely face the disaster,” said Akihito.

He was accompanied by his wife, Empress Michiko, his two sons and their wives.


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