Japan's Emperor to greet general public on his birthday

Japan's Emperor Naruhito will greet the general public on his 64th birthday, on February 23.

The Imperial Household Agency on Tuesday announced that the Emperor will appear on the palace balcony three times in the morning, accompanied by Empress Masako and other members of the Imperial family.

The agency plans to allow up to 20,000 people into the palace grounds per appearance.

Those who are not allowed in will be asked to sign a registry book in the afternoon.

Last year, when the Emperor greeted birthday well-wishers for the first time since he assumed the throne, participants were chosen in advance by lottery to prevent coronavirus infection. This year, there will be no lottery.

The agency canceled the Emperor's New Year Greeting that was scheduled for January 2 because of the powerful earthquake that struck central Japan the previous day.

The agency said the Emperor and Empress remain deeply distressed by the damage caused by the earthquake and worried about the survivors.

Nevertheless, it decided to invite the general public for the birthday greeting because the day is a national holiday, and receiving well-wishes from the general public is an important event for the Emperor.