Emperor Akihito of Japan celebrates his 77th birthday

Emperor Akihito celebrated his 77th birthday Thursday and urged the people of Japan to pay heed to the needs of the elderly, as the number of older people in the country rapidly grows.

Akihito greeted thousands of well-wishers waving Japanese flags from a balcony at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo. Empress Michiko and other royal family members — including Akihito’s eldest son Crown Prince Naruhito and his wife Crown Princess Masako — appeared on the balcony.

Akihito has cut back on official duties because of health reasons. He did not make any foreign trips this year. The emperor underwent an operation for prostate cancer in 2003, and the Imperial Household Agency says he has been undergoing hormonal therapy to prevent its recurrence.

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