Japan's Emperor Undergoes Heart Surgery

Published February 18, 2012 3:27AM (EST)

TOKYO (AP) — Japanese Emperor Akihito was undergoing heart-bypass surgery Saturday intended to allow him to lead a healthier, more active life.

Akihito, 78, entered the operating room Saturday morning as scheduled, and the surgery was expected to last about five hours, the Imperial Household Agency said.

The surgery is intended to repair two of three coronary arteries that had narrowed, using a blood vessel from another part of his body, as is routine with such operations, the palace said.

A medical team from University of Tokyo Hospital, where the emperor is staying, worked with doctors from Juntendo University Hospital for the operation.

Akihito is expected to be released in about two or three weeks if there are no complications, the agency said.

Akihito got tests last weekend that showed his heart condition had worsened from a year ago.

The soft-spoken Akihito holds no political power but is extremely popular with Japanese people as a symbol of the nation. He is often seen playing tennis, enjoying music and taking walks with his wife, Michiko.

A special notebook has been set up at the palace for get-well messages, but the emperor does not accept gifts or flowers, according to the agency.

Akihito performed his regular duties Thursday, including meeting with four Japanese ambassadors and elementary school officials. Crown Prince Naruhito, Akihito's son, will perform such duties during the hospitalization.

By Salon Staff

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