02/17/2020, 10.24
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Coronavirus, Tokyo cancels the emperor's birthday speech

It would have been Naruhito's first since his ascent to the throne. The last time the authorities canceled the ceremony was in 1996, in the days of the hostage crisis at the Japanese embassy in Lima.


Tokyo (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The Imperial House Agency announced this morning that it has canceled an event for the 60th birthday of Emperor Naruhito, scheduled at the Monarch's Palace next weekend.

The reason for the decision: fears that the public ceremony could contribute to the spread of the new Covid-19 coronavirus. The birthday speech on February 23 was to have been the first by the emperor since his ascension to the throne on May 1 last year. His father, Emperor Emeritus Akihito, had become the first Japanese monarch to abdicate in more than 200 years on April 30.

According to the original plans, Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako were to greet their subjects three times in the morning. At their side, t crown prince Fumihito; Crown Princess Kiko, the latter's wife; and their daughters, the princesses Mako and Kako. But three days ago during a press conference held before the decision to cancel the event, Yasuhiko Nishimura, head of the agency, said: "We must respond [to the health emergency] in a way that takes risks into account, bearing in mind that the virus could spread."

The last time the authorities canceled the emperor's birthday speech was in 1996. Emperor Akihito, who would have turned 63 on December 23, did not consider it appropriate for the ceremony to take place because it had started between December 17 the hostage crisis at the Japanese embassy in Lima (Peru). Some members of the Tupac Amaru (Mrta) Revolutionary Movement kidnapped hundreds of high-level diplomats; On April 22, 1997, a Peruvian special forces blitz ended the 126-day siege and killed 2 soldiers, one hostage and 14 terrorists.

In December 2018, around 82,000 subjects visited the Palace for the last birthday speech of Emperor Akihito from the throne.

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