TOKYO, Jan. 2 (UPI) -- Japanese Emperor Akihito offered encouragement Wednesday to people still working to rebuild their lives from the devastating 2011 tsunami and earthquake.
"It was encouraging to see many people going to the disaster-affected areas and making efforts to help afflicted people," he said in a series of New Year's greetings, The Mainichi Shimbun reported.
Speaking to about 78,000 people from a balcony of the royal palace, the emperor added, "I hope that this will be a better year even slightly for every citizen."
He was joined on the balcony by other members of the royal family, including Empress Michiko, Crown Prince Naruhito and Crown Princess Masako.
Akihito's 97-year-old uncle, Prince Mikasa, also was present, his first public appearance since heart surgery in July.