Japanese Emperor receives support from family

TOKYO - The Emperor has returned to the Imperial Palace after being discharged from the hospital Sunday, the Imperial Household Agency said.

After the 78-year-old Emperor underwent heart bypass surgery on Feb 18, his condition has been improving as his doctors anticipated, although he still has a smaller appetite than usual, according to the agency.

Ichiro Kanazawa, medical supervisor of the agency, held a press conference at 4pm on Sunday at the agency building. Kanazawa said that since the surgery, the Emperor had gone through postoperative rehabilitation programs with the support of the Empress.

As a result, his cardiac functions had recovered so well that he was able to walk nearly one kilometer a day. However, he should do his best to take rest throughout this month, according to Kanazawa.

The Emperor's constitutional functions are therefore likely to be assumed by Crown Prince Naruhito, as he did after the Emperor was hospitalized.

According to Kanazawa, the Empress regularly visited her husband at the hospital following his surgery.

During his recovery she took extra care of him, bringing his favorite food from the Imperial Palace and playing relaxing music during his rehabilitation sessions.

The crown prince and his wife Crown Princess Masako, as well as Prince Akishino and Princess Kiko, also visited him in the hospital. Princess Aiko, daughter of the crown prince and princess, sent a get-well card to the Emperor.

According to the agency, 97,899 people expressing their wishes for the Emperor's recovery had registered their names in visitors books placed at the Imperial Palace and other places from Feb 17 to Sunday.

Doctors: Our duties continue

After seeing the Emperor leave the hospital, Prof. Atsushi Amano of Juntendo University Hospital, who conducted the surgery, met journalists.

"Successful, safe, or getting well...we're not in a position to evaluate [the Emperor's surgery and postoperative condition]. But his recovery process never faltered, not one single day," he said.

When asked about whether he felt relieved [after his demanding duty], Kanazawa said: "The scariest thing is that we lack concentration at this stage. Our duties won't end until we can confirm His Majesty has regained a quality of life similar to that of people his age."