Japan’s emperor prays for pandemic dead in New Year message
By YURI KAGEYAMA
TOKYO (AP) — Japan’s Emperor Naruhito is offering prayers for those who died during the pandemic, taking to video for the second straight year for his New Year’s greeting. Before the pandemic, the imperial palace in central Tokyo would open at the start of each year to cheering, flag-waving crowds. That has been canceled this year to curb coronavirus infections. Sitting before a bonsai tree with his wife Masako, Naruhito on Saturday praised and thanked doctors and other health care workers. Japan has recorded more than 18,000 COVID-19-related deaths, but the pace of deaths has fallen in recent months. He also voiced worries about the fast-spreading omicron variant.