Nearly 83,000 people visited the Imperial Palace in central Tokyo on Sunday to celebrate Emperor Akihito's 85th birthday.
The Emperor, Empress Michiko and other members of the Imperial family appeared on the palace balcony three times to greet well-wishers in the morning.
In his address, the Emperor expressed gratitude for the congratulations he had received.
He said it was unfortunate that Japan was hit by natural disasters again this year.
He expressed sympathy for the people who had lost loved ones, suffered damage and are struggling to get their lives back on track.
The Emperor said that with only a few days left until the New Year, he hopes it will be a good year for all, and he wishes everyone health and happiness.
This was the Emperor's final birthday greeting to the public before his abdication next April.
The Imperial Household Agency says the number of well-wishers was the largest since 1969.
The agency also says nearly 10,000 people were unable to enter the palace compound before the third greeting. Officials asked them to write their congratulatory messages in special books in the afternoon.