As his country remembered their dead one year after the deadly tsunami that wreaked havoc, Japan's Emperor Akihito cut a frail but determined figure Bowing low before the memorial, accompanied by his wife Michiko, the 78-year-old royal symbolised the nation's promise not to forget their loved ones.
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He defied ill health to attend the national remembrance service, staying just 20 minutes on the advice of his doctors. Since his heart operation on February 18, he has been out of the limelight, with his duties covered by his son.His recovery was further complicated by fluid on his lung, which was removed last Wednesday.
Until the end of March, Naruhito, 44, will stand in for his highly-respected father who has been ordered rest in the Imperial Palace.But his appearance at the anniversary service was a boost for people still trying to rebuild their lives.
He said: "It is my hope that our hearts will always be with the afflicted people and the afflicted regions, and that everyone will continue to work towards improving the conditions of those areas. “It is important for us to never forget this disaster and hand down the lessons to future generations."