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Japanese emperor's public birthday event canceled

Xinhua | Updated: 2020-02-18 09:09

Japan's Emperor Naruhito makes a speech next to Empress Masako during a public appearance for New Year celebrations at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo, Japan, Jan 2, 2020. [Photo/Agencies]

TOKYO - Japan's Imperial Household Agency on Monday said a public birthday event for Emperor Naruhito that was scheduled for the weekend at the Imperial Palace has been canceled due to concerns over the new coronavirus.

Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako were scheduled to greet the public three times on Sunday morning from a balcony in the palace.

The birthday address by the emperor, who will turn 60 years old, would have been the first since he ascended the throne on May 1 last year.

"We made the decision to cancel the public event at the palace, which is attended every year by many people in close proximity, after considering the risk of the virus spreading," vice grand steward of the Imperial Household Agency, Kenji Ikeda, told a press conference on the matter.

The imperial family will still go ahead with private celebrations and a banquet to which senior government officials including Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will attend, and a tea party, the guests of which will include dignitaries from foreign diplomatic missions in Japan, local media reported.

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