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Report: Japan's emperor undergoes successful cardiac bypass

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 3:12 AM EST, Sat February 18, 2012
 Japanese public broadcast NHK said the 78-year-old emperor was recovering after the five-hour procedure
Japanese public broadcast NHK said the 78-year-old emperor was recovering after the five-hour procedure
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Emperor Akihito's surgery lasts nearly five hours, Japan's public broacast NHK reported
  • Akihito, 78, has suffered from poor health in recent months
  • Akihito's title is a largely ceremonial, though he is a revered figure in Japan

Tokyo (CNN) -- Japan's 78-year-old emperor was recovering Saturday from a successful cardiac bypass surgery at the University of Tokyo Hospital, according to Japanese public broadcast NHK.

Emperor Akihito's surgery lasted nearly five hours, NHK reported.

Akihito, a ceremonial but revered figure in Japan, has suffered from poor health in recent months and has been hospitalized several times.

Tsugunomiya Akihito was born on December 23, 1933 in Tokyo to Emperor Hirohito and Empress Nagako Kuniat as their fifth child and first son.

According to Japanese legend, he is a direct descendant of Japan's first emperor Jimmu, circa 660 BC. Akihito means "shining pinnacle of virtue," and Tsugunomiya means "prince of the august succession and enlightened benevolence."

On November 12, 1990, Akihito ascended to the Chrysanthemum Throne -- the oldest hereditary monarchy in the world -- as the 125th Emperor of Japan, one year and ten months after the death of Emperor Hirohito.

The position, per Japan's constitution, is defined as "the symbol of the state and of the unity of the people." That said, the office's involvement in day-to-day government affairs tends to be minimal.

Akihito broke from precedent following Japan's epic 9.0 magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami last year, when he gave a historic, televised speech on March 16. In it, he encouraged citizens to put forth their "best effort to save all suffering people" and he applauded his countrymen's handling of the crisis.

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