Ahead of his abdication later this year, Japan's Emperor Akihito on Wednesday delivered his final New Year's address Wednesday. He told tens of thousands of well-wishers he was praying for peace. According to The Imperial Palace, more then 72,000 people flocked to the royal residence on Wednesday morning alone, with many more still arriving for a final chance to see the 85-year-old royal deliver his traditional new year's greeting.
"I'm sincerely glad to celebrate the new year together with you under the clear sky," he told thousands.
He added: "I pray for the peace and happiness of the people of our country and the world." The Emperor was accompanied by Empress Michiko and other family members. In 2016, Akihito shocked the country by signalling his desire to take a back seat, citing his age and health problems. His eldest son, Crown Prince Naruhito, is set to ascend the Chrysanthemum Throne a day after his father's abdication, continuing the rule of the world's oldest imperial family.
Last month, in a rare emotional address to mark his 85th birthday, Akihito pointed to the countless lives lost in the war. "It gives me deep comfort that the Heisei Era (his reign) is coming to an end, free of war in Japan," he said.