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Friday, 23rd December 2011
In General Japan News,

Emperor Akihito turns 78 and praises Japanese spirit

Emperor Akihito celebrated his 78th birthday today (December 23rd) and used his annual birthday speech to praise the spirit of the Japanese people following what has been an exceptionally difficult year.

Having suffered ill health in November, Emperor Akihito was hospitalised with a mycoplasma infection, but having been released from hospital several weeks ago, he made an inspiring speech to the people of Japan.

Now back to work, the emperor promised to look after his health in the run up to New Year, the Mainichi Daily reported.

Extending his sympathies to all who lost family members during the twin disasters of March 11th, the emperor said that he had been touched by the heart-wrenching scenes of Japanese people coming together in the face of adversity, despite all that they had lost.

Having taken many trips with the empress to see the areas hit by the tsunami and earthquake, Emperor Akihito said that the spirit of the people in Japan provided him with much strength of heart.

"On all of these visits we were most touched to see that, in spite of the sadness and hardships they must be facing, the people never seemed to lose their composure, " the news provider quoted him as saying.

"With a strong sense of solidarity, they were trying to overcome their hardships by helping each other."

While waving to citizens who had come to wish him happy birthday, Emperor Akihito was accompanied by his wife, Empress Michiko and the rest of his family.

Despite referring to this year as "truly distressing", the emperor took many positives from the way in which the nation responded to such difficult times.

"I feel that the Japanese people have come together as a nation to squarely face the disaster and do what they can to be of help for the victims," he said.

Written by Mark Smith

Related news stories:
Crown Prince urges Emperor Akihito to 'reduce burden' (24th February 2012)
Japanese emperor celebrates 20 years (12th November 2009)
Emperor in hospital with ?mild? pneumonia (18th November 2011)
Japan marks 5 years since tsunami (11th March 2016)