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Japan Emperor Akihito turns 79, says back to health

Published on Dec 23, 2012 1:19 PM
Japan's Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko wave to well-wishers who gathered to celebrate the monarch's 79th birthday at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo on Sunday. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

TOKYO (AFP) - Japanese Emperor Akihito turned 79 years old on Sunday, reassuring thousands of well-wishers that he has regained health since his heart bypass surgery in February.

The soft-spoken monarch gave his birthday address to the public from a glass-covered balcony at the Imperial Palace overlooking the East Garden, filled with visitors braving the bitter cold and waving small Japanese flags.

"In February, I had a heart surgery and worried many people. Please remain assured that I am now living normally like before," he said in a brief speech.

Surgeons carried out the operation on Feb 18 - the emperor's first since he was treated in 2003 for prostate cancer - after tests showed a narrowing of two of his coronary arteries.

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