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On behalf of the American people, the First Lady and I offer our heartfelt appreciation to Their Majesties the Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko.  As the Heisei era draws to a close and a new generation prepares to ascend the throne, I want to recognize the tremendous importance that the United States attaches to its close relationship with Japan.  Emperor Akihito welcomed five United States presidents to Japan and reigned from the end of the Cold War to the present day.  Our bilateral relationship was critical to navigating the global challenges of those times.  Melania and I were honored to be His Majesty’s guests in 2017, and we look forward to continuing the tradition of partnership and cooperation with Japan, our great ally, in the new era.