Japan cancels Emperor's public birthday

Japan cancels Emperor’s public birthday celebrations amid coronavirus fears as government tells people to avoid ‘non-essential gatherings’

  • Emperor Naruhito will no longer appear at his birthday celebration in Tokyo  
  • The celebrations were to be the Emperor’s first since he took the throne in 2019
  • The last time the celebrations were cancelled was in 1996, when hostages were taken at Japan’s embassy in Peru at an event to mark the monarch’s birthday 

Japan said Monday it would cancel a public gathering to celebrate the birthday of new Emperor Naruhito, as fears grow over the spread of the new coronavirus in the country.

‘In light of various situations, we have decided to cancel the visit by the general public to the palace for His Majesty’s birthday,’ the imperial household agency said in a statement a day after the government warned people to avoid crowds and ‘non-essential gatherings.’

‘His Majesty’s appearance in the morning as well as the public signing of the greeting book will be cancelled.’

Emperor Naruhito is pictured addressing a ceremony for a rehabilitation centre in Tokorozawa, Japan on January 22, 2020. The birthday celebrations were to be the Emperor’s first since he took the throne last year 

At least 60 people in Japan have so far been diagnosed with the virus, with Health Minister Katsunobu Kato warning on Sunday that the nation was ‘entering a new phase’ of the outbreak.

‘We want to ask the public to avoid non-urgent, non-essential gatherings. We want elderly and those with pre-existing conditions to avoid crowded places,’ he said.

The birthday gathering on February 23 was cancelled as local media reported that the amateur section of the Tokyo Marathon, scheduled for March 1, would be cancelled.

Health Minister Katsunobu Kato is pictured announcing Japan’s first death from the COVID-19 coronavirus in Tokyo on 13 February, 2020. Kato warned yesterday that the virus is ‘entering a new phase’ of the outbreak 

Two people wearing masks pose at a street on February 11, 2020, in Tokyo, Japan

‘We have no formal decision to announce yet. We are studying and once a decision is made we will announce it, by today,’ a spokeswoman said.

The birthday celebration for Emperor Naruhito was to be the first since he took the throne last year.

The last time the gathering was cancelled was in 1996, after hostages were taken at the Japanese embassy in Peru during an event to mark the monarch’s birthday.


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