On the Emperor’s birthday the Japanese people have the opportunity to wish him well at the imperial palace in Tokyo. Last December was the last time one could do this for Emperor Akihito, as he will abdicate this year.
Judging from the crowd walking towards the palace, quite a few people decided to go this time.
People were organised into lines to wait to be allowed on the palace grounds.
After a long wait and security checks, one could finally see the main gate. By now, it was quite clear that not everyone would be able to enter.
Luckily, we were able to make it five minutes before the entrance would be closed, in time for the Emperor’s third and last appearance of the day. After entering through the main gate, one had an excellent view of the Fushimi-yagura. This watchtower was constructed in 1559 on the grounds of Fushimi Castle in Kyoto.
Looking in the other direction gave a view of the crowds still waiting to enter.
After another wait in front of the palace, the well-wishers waved their Japanese flags as the the Emperor appeared with his family.
The Emperor expressed his gratitude for the congratulations, sadness for the people who suffered through the disasters of the past year, and the hope for a good year for all.
After his speech, people waved their flags again as he left.
Crowds leaving the palace.