May 4 (UPI) -- Emperor Naruhito greeted tens of thousands of people at the Imperial Palace on Saturday in his first public appearance since he took the throne days earlier.
More than 140,000 people gathered for greeting sessions from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., according to the Imperial Household Agency, with members of the imperial family making five-minute appearances once every hour.
The number surpassed around 109,800 for the former emperor's first public appearance in Nov. 1990, the Imperial Household Agency said. The 1990 celebration took place nearly two years after the death of Emperor Hirohito, known posthumously as Emperor Showa, as the country remained in mourning.
Narurhito, 59, appeared on the balcony of the Imperial Palace alongside his wife, Empress Masako, and other Imperial family members with well-wishers waving Japanese flags in the forecourt.
"I am deeply blessed and grateful for everyone here today who has offered congratulations," Naruhito said in a statement. "Not only do I pray for everyone's health and happiness, I hope that our nation can join hands with countries around the world and together make progress toward achieving world peace."
The emperor, born in 1960, is the first to never have experienced war. Empress Masako is a former diplomat and Harvard University graduate, fluent in French and English, who spent some of her formative years in Moscow, New York and Boston.
"We've never had a bilingual imperial couple with no memory of or connection to World War II," said Tokyo resident Setsuko Okada, 84, who attended the greeting. "Or any war for that matter, at least, not directly."
"Because of that he'll want to build peaceful relationships with other nations," Okada added.
Okada took her daughter, Nozomi, 43, along with her, who agreed with her that Naruhito alongside Empress Masako will continue to modernize and encourage stronger relations with other countries.