Japan`s Empress, 76, says she`s slowing down

Japan`s Empress Michiko, marking her 76th birthday, said she is starting to feel the effects of her age.

Tokyo: Japan`s Empress Michiko, marking
her 76th birthday today, said she is starting to feel the
effects of her age - sometimes forgetting where she puts
things - but she hopes to keep up her official duties as long
as she can.

Michiko, the wife of Emperor Akihito, said in a
pre-birthday statement that she is well taken care of by her
palace doctors and, when necessary, outside specialists.

She has in the past suffered from ailments believed to
be related to stress, and has recently shown signs of a form
of asthma.

"I myself have been blessed with relatively good
health, but in the last few years I feel I have become a lot
slower at doing things," she said. "I also often experience
symptoms that seem to be caused by ageing, such as not being
able to find what I am looking for. I find these incidents
amusing at times, but I also feel a bit helpless."

The royal couple assumed the Chrysanthemum Throne 21
years ago, after the death of Akihito`s father, the late
Emperor Hirohito.

In their official role as symbolic figureheads, they
carry out a wide range of duties, from welcoming foreign
dignitaries to bestowing awards and observing palace rituals
and ceremonies. They have, however, recently kept a somewhat
lower public profile than in past years.

In modern Japan, monarchs generally do not abdicate
the throne. After their coronation, they reign for the rest of
their life.