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Tuesday, 18 February, 2003, 08:06 GMT
Japanese emperor back to work
Japan's Emperor Akihito (left) along with other imperial family members at New Year
Emperor Akihito (left) recently underwent surgery
Japan's Emperor Akihito has returned to official duties following his surgery for prostate cancer.

Officials said that the monarch's recovery from the operation one month ago had been better than expected and he was released early from hospital 10 days ago.

Doctors treating the 69-year-old emperor have said they are confident he will make a full recovery.

Tests following the surgery showed the cancer had not spread.

Emperor Akihito's return to his official role was approved on Tuesday by a Cabinet vote.

One of the emperor's first engagements will be to meet the President of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, at the Imperial Palace on Friday.

During his spell in hospital, Emperor Akihito's constitutional duties were assumed by his son, Crown Prince Naruhito.

Break with tradition

The news that the emperor was suffering from prostate cancer was given at the end of last year.

The announcement marked a break with tradition for the highly secretive imperial household.

The previous emperor died in 1989 before it was revealed that he too had been suffering from cancer.

Emperor Akihito was treated in a public hospital - the first time a Japanese emperor has undergone surgery outside the palace grounds.

These initiatives are being seen as part of a modest drive to modernise the world's longest reigning monarchy.

Now 15 years into his reign, Emperor Akihito is considered to have more liberal and forward-thinking views than his father, the wartime emperor Hirohito.

See also:

24 Jan 03 | Asia-Pacific
02 Jan 03 | Asia-Pacific
28 Dec 02 | Asia-Pacific
17 Mar 00 | C-D
07 Jan 02 | Asia-Pacific
08 Dec 01 | Asia-Pacific
04 Dec 01 | Talking Point
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