MINAMI-SANRIKU, Japan — Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko are visiting Japan's tsunami-battered northeastern coast, offering encouragement to residents who lost homes and loved ones in last month's disaster.

The widely respected royal couple visited a school gymnasium where 200 people live in the town of Minami-Sanriku, 250 miles (400 kilometers) northeast of Tokyo.

As the emperor and empress drove into the school driveway Wednesday, the crowds waved excitedly and snapped pictures at the passing vehicle, some running to keep up.

Noriko Oikawa was moved to tears as she cradled her 1-year-old daughter, saying: "He's so busy yet took the time to visit us." (AP)