Japan's Emperor, Empress hold first Imperial garden party since pandemic began

Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako have hosted their first Imperial garden party since the pandemic began, which was also the first such event since the Emperor ascended the throne.

The party went ahead at the Akasaka Imperial Gardens despite rainy weather in Tokyo on Thursday.
A thousand guests attended, which was only half the usual number at such events. The Imperial Household Agency said it kept the list small due to coronavirus concerns.

Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako were seen conversing with attendees. They included retired wheelchair tennis star Kunieda Shingo who received this year's People's Honor Award.

Emperor Naruhito said, "I play tennis myself! Roger Federer once coached me."

Speed skating star Takagi Miho and Nobel Prize winner Yoshino Akira were also among the guests.

Imperial garden parties were traditionally held every year in spring and autumn. The previous one was held in the fall of 2018.