TOKYO -- Emperor Akihito gave what is likely to be his final words at a Diet opening ceremony at proceedings to mark the launch of the 198th regular session of the Diet on Jan. 28.
"I earnestly hope that the Diet, as it handles various domestic and overseas issues, will sufficiently carry out its appointed work as the highest institution of sovereignty and respond to the people's trust," the Emperor said in a statement in the plenary session chamber of the House of Councillors.
Emperor Akihito will abdicate on April 30, and unless the House of Representatives is dissolved before then, it will be the last time for him to speak at a ceremony to convene a Diet session.
Legislators from the lower house crowded into the upper house chamber for the ceremony, leaving only standing room at the back. Before the Emperor gave his words, House of Representatives Speaker Tadamori Oshima gave an address, stating, "All Diet members earnestly hope together with the people that inheritance of the throne will take place without incident."
According to the Secretariat of the House of Councillors, this marks the 82nd occasion Emperor Akihito has been present at a Diet opening ceremony since his enthronement in January 1989. It is the norm for Emperor Akihito to follow precedent when making a statement at such a ceremony, which is considered a "public act" in his position as the symbol of the state. In the ceremony to mark the convening of the Diet following the Great Hanshin Earthquake of 1995, the Emperor made the rare move of stating, "Swift relief and restoration are currently urgent tasks."
(Japanese original by Yusuke Matsukura, Political News Department)