Emperor Akihito, center, and Empress Michiko wave as members of the imperial family receive New Year's public congratulatory visits to Tokyo's Imperial Palace. It was his first public New Year's greetings since ascending to the throne. Akihito became emperor on Jan. 7, 1989, after the death of his father, Hirohito, but was not officially enthroned until Nov. 12, 1990, following a mourning period of nearly two years.