"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."
Akihito's 97-year-old uncle, Prince Mikasa, also was present, his first public appearance since heart surgery in July.
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