Reactions to the Emperor's abdication

Reactions to the Emperor's abdication

People across Japan have expressed their thoughts on the abdication of Emperor Akihito.

Noriyuki Kazaoka was the head of the Imperial Household Agency when the Emperor expressed an apparent desire to step down three years ago.

Kazaoka said he is full of respect and gratitude for the Emperor and Empress Michiko. He wished them calm and relaxing days ahead.

Yutaka Kawashima served as grand chamberlain for eight years through 2015.

He said the Emperor and Empress stood by the Japanese people on various occasions, and that their interactions with the public created a sense of togetherness.

Katsusuke Meguro served the Emperor for about 30 years and supported his research on fish.

Meguro said the Emperor's achievements are highly regarded by researchers in and out of Japan. He hopes the Emperor will continue his study.

Kazuo Sakaki, a former classmate, said that as an elementary student the Emperor seemed to be strongly aware of how he should respond to expectations of him as the Crown Prince.

Sakaki said he is proud and thankful that the Emperor has achieved what he aspired to.

Mototsugu Akashi is also a former classmate. He described the Emperor as serious and strong. Akashi said the Emperor knows himself and does what he thinks is right.

People in the city of Kobe spoke of their gratitude. The Emperor and Empress made a visit there two weeks after the area was hit by the Great Hanshin Earthquake in 1995.

At one burnt-out site, the Empress laid narcissus she picked at the Imperial Palace. The site later became a park with narcissus flowerbeds.

Yasue Kobata, who has taken care of the flowers, said the narcissus were a precious and heartfelt gift from the Empress after everything was lost in a fire.

Tomokazu Matuyama, the head of the park's management group, said he will make sure the flowers keep blooming.

Narumi Abe owns a tile workshop, and she met the Emperor and Empress when they visited Onagawa Town in Miyagi Prefecture three years ago.

The town was devastated by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

Abe said the Empress' words gave her the courage to move on. She said the Emperor and Empress always showed concern for places across Japan where people are in grief and struck by tragedy.

Naeko Teruya is a former leader of an association of war-bereaved families in Okinawa Prefecture. She lost five family members during the closing days of World War Two. She has met the Emperor and Empress five times, including when they were the Crown Prince and Princess.

Teruya said she had mixed feelings at first because she lost her father in the war and saw her mother struggle.

But she said she is now filled with gratitude as she was able to sense the Emperor and Empress' sincere consideration for Okinawa and strong wish for peace.