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Japan's emperor and empress celebrate 60 years of marriage

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11th-Apr-2019       
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AP, Tokyo :
Japan's Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary Wednesday just three weeks before he abdicates his throne.
The couple met at a 1957 tennis tournament remembered as a "love match." Akihito and Michiko Shoda married on April 10, 1959, making him Japan's first future emperor to wed a commoner and someone who was Catholic-educated. Both are among many changes he brought to Japan's 1,500-year-old monarchy.
Akihito and Michiko broke with tradition, especially in choosing to raise their three children, in speaking far more often to the public, and making amends for the war victims in and outside the country as he kept searching for what his constitutional role of "a symbol" should be.
Unlike their predecessors, Akihito and Michiko are almost always together - Akihito kneeling beside Michiko speaking intimately with disaster victims at evacuation centers, or to residents at nursing homes or a handicapped people's workshop. Their friendly interactions have won deep affection among the Japanese.
That is now known as the "Heisei" style, after the name of Akihito's era - the opposite of a more charismatic, invisible and deified emperor that conservatives want to restore from Japan's militaristic past, experts say.
Akihito succeeded the throne in 1989 after the death of his father, Hirohito, the longest serving emperor whose 64-year reign spanned World War II and Japan's postwar economic recovery.
In his birthday remark in December, Akihito thanked the people for accepting and supporting him, especially Michiko for her yearslong dedication and understanding for his role.
"Looking back, it was soon after I embarked on my life's journey as an adult member of the Imperial Family that I met the Empress. Feeling a bond of deep trust, I asked her to be my fellow traveler and have journeyed with her as my partner to this day," Akihito said.
"I am also truly grateful to the Empress, who herself was once one of the people, but who chose to walk this path with me, and over 60 long years continued to serve with great devotion both the Imperial Family and the people of Japan," Akihito said, with his voice trembling with emotion.

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