TOKYO, Jan. 2 (UPI) -- Japanese Emperor Akihito offered greetings and prayers of world peace to the people of Japan in his annual New Year's address Saturday morning.
The emperor waved to more than 44,000 well-wishers who gathered below his balcony for one of five New Year's greetings set to take place throughout the day. He was joined by Empress Michiko and other members of the imperial family.
He set his hopes for the new year by offering a prayer of peace for the nation.
"I would like to renew my prayer for peace both for our country and our people," he said to the crowd.
Emperor Akihito also acknowledged the upcoming fifth anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami.
"It pains me to think that there are still people who cannot return to the places they used to live and those who must endure hardships of living in temporary housing," he said. "I hope that further progress will be made in the recovery of the afflicted areas."