The Straits Times
Published on Oct 20, 2012

Japan empress turns 78, relieved over emperor's recovery


TOKYO (AFP) - Japanese Empress Michiko celebrated her 78th birthday on Saturday, expressing relief over Emperor Akihito's recovery from heart surgery and hoping to live with him "in peace" despite her own health concerns.

Mr Akihito underwent coronary bypass surgery in February, three months after he was hospitalised to treat bronchial pneumonia, further raising concerns about the monarch, whose cancerous prostate gland was removed in 2003.

"At times I worried whether His Majesty would ever get better, but gradually signs of improvement began to appear," Ms Michiko said in a statement released in response to a questionnaire from the Imperial Palace's press corps.

The emperor, who turns 79 in December, recovered well enough to attend a ceremony in March marking the first anniversary of Japan's earthquake-tsunami disaster, and visited Britain to attend the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II in May.