|Press Conference on the Occasion of His Majesty's Birthday|
Press Conference on the Occasion of His Majesty's Birthday (2001)|
Date: 18 December 2001|
Imperial Palace, Tokyo
A series of tragic events, accidents and disasters have occurred in succession both at home and abroad this year. The national economy is also failing to recover and anxiety is increasing in society. As Your Majesty looks back over the past year, please tell us about the events that have left a strong impression on you.
Against such a background, it is fortunate that at least this year's harvests of rice and other crops were bountiful. Still, it is unfortunate that the occurrences of mad cow disease have made a major negative impact on livestock farming and related industries.
In Japan this year, although there were no single natural disasters claiming large numbers of lives, more than 70 people have died since the beginning of the year as a result of natural disasters, reminding us of the severity of Japan's natural environment.
There were several painful disasters resulting from acts of human beings.
In February, the Ehime Maru training vessel of Uwajima Fisheries High School sank after colliding with an American submarine, resulting in the loss of nine lives. My heart grieves to think of the feelings of the bereaved families who lost their precious members and of the school teachers and other related persons. I would like to acknowledge the sincere and unstinting efforts made by the United States Navy to recover the bodies and personal effects.
In June a painful event occurred at Ikeda Elementary School affiliated to the Osaka Kyoiku University.
In September, a series of simultaneous terrorist attacks occurred, beginning with the destruction of the World Trade Center buildings and resulting in more than 3,000 people dead or missing, including 24 Japanese. The world was shocked at these terrorist attacks, which were implemented with the unimaginable method of flying passenger airplanes into buildings. Following these attacks a war was waged in Afghanistan with the aim of eradicating terrorism. Exactly 30 years ago the Empress and I visited Afghanistan. Starting from Kabul, we visited Bamian, known as the site where the Buddhist statues were completely destroyed this year, Kunduz, where fierce battles were fought and Ai Khanum, then the site of an archeological excavation of Greek cultural ruins. Recently when I see happy pictures of women in Kabul raising the veils that covered their faces I cannot help but hope that in the future peace will firmly take root in that region.
While we saw a series of such painful incidents, we were all filled with joy to see the awarding of a Nobel Prize in Chemistry to Professor Ryoji Noyori and the successes of Ichiro and other Japanese players in the American Major Leagues. This was a major achievement in the more than one hundred year history of Japanese baseball.
Among those things that I was directly involved in and that left a strong impression, the April visit to the disaster areas affected by the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake comes first to mind. Remembering my visit to the area directly following the earthquake, I went around the affected areas and I was strongly impressed by the efforts of the people there to rebuild their hometowns in exemplary ways while making every effort to prevent recurring disaster. Undoubtedly they are filled with diverse memories that we cannot even imagine. My heart was moved to see them carrying on so courageously.
Furthermore, in July I visited Niijima Island and Kozushima Island, which were damaged by earthquakes last year. All around the islands the steep mountainsides have collapsed and at the elementary school that I visited I could see that the fallen rocks had almost reached the school buildings. I hope that as the recovery advances the island will be made safer than before. On the way back I could see Miyakejima Island from my helicopter window, but the summit of Mt. Oyama was invisible below the cloud cover. Although more than one year has passed since the evacuation of all of the island's residents, the emissions of volcanic gas have not stopped and it appears that it will be a considerable time before the residents can return to their homes. I imagine that they still face many difficulties and I hope that the islanders, cooperating with the people concerned around them, remain in good health and keep up their spirits until the day comes when they can return to the island. I also pray for the safety and health of those who are working in a difficult environment to bring about the recovery of the island.
In June we marked the first anniversary of the passing of Empress Kojun. On that occasion the Gonden* was removed from the Fukiage Residence for Empress Kojun, which I had visited often, and the Fukiage Residence seemed lonely without it. I am deeply grateful to all those in her service who devoted themselves to Empress Kojun for so many long years.
In December the birth of the new Princess to the Crown Prince and Princess was a happy event.
Currently Japan is faced with various difficult problems, beginning with the severe economic situation. Still, remembering that after the War the people rose to the challenge of rebuilding from the devastation and created the nation we live in today, I expect that the people will overcome these difficulties.
I hope that the coming year will be a better one for everyone, as far as possible.
* a chamber where Her late Majety's spirit is enshrined until the first anniversary of her passing.
In relief that mother and child are both healthy and doing well, I find my mind going back to the days when the Empress and I were young. In line with the natural trend of the times we brought up our own children ourselves, but to pursue both child rearing and official duties at the same time meant that the Empress had to spend long and relentless years and months, raising our children. In the year that the Empress gave birth to the Crown Prince, we traveled abroad twice on official visits to five countries, the United States of America, Iran, Ethiopia, India and Nepal. The first of these visits, to the United States, was just after the Crown Prince was weaned.
The Empress was always very careful to ensure that the process of raising our children did not entail any obstacles to our public duties, nor disturb my own daily life. I am happy that the Empress was always grateful to Emperor Showa and Empress Kojun for allowing her to bring up the children by herself, and that she was always conscious of the help she received from the people around her.
Although currently the practical aspects of child rearing and the environment surrounding child rearing have become much more convenient, I am sure that in raising their first child the Crown Prince and Princess will go through a variety of new experiences. I believe that they will carefully consider together and tackle each new experience. It is my sincere hope that the new Princess will have a healthy and happy upbringing. It also fills me with joy to see that the children of Prince and Princess Akishino are growing well thanks to the efforts of their parents. It is my hope that the three Princesses will grow up caring for one another.
I believe that there is no great difference between men and women in the Imperial Family as they perform their duties . The role of female members of the Imperial Family has always been, and will continue to be very important.
But above all else, what is of first and foremost importance for the new Princess for now is that she may grow well and healthy and I would like our whole family to watch over her.
It is regrettable however that Japan's exchanges with Korea have not all been of this kind. This is something that we should never forget.
The FIFA World Cup 2002 is an event that is further energizing exchange between the peoples of the two countries. In order that this course be followed through, I believe that it is important that the people of both countries try to understand correctly the individual course of events that their respective countries have followed and that they each understand on a person-to-person basis the other's position. I hope that the World Cup will, through cooperation between the two peoples, run smoothly and that this will result in enhancing understanding and mutual trust between the Japanese and Korean people.
*Paekche is one of three kingdoms of ancient korea.It is said to have been established in 18B.C. and perished in 660A.D.
Although you characterize the conveying of an Imperial message of condolence as extraordinary, I believe that this incident itself was extraordinary, nothing like it ever having occurred in history before.
While I believe it important that the Imperial Family faithfully follow precedent, we must also take into consideration the fact that unprecedented situations are added in each era. It was based on such a recognition that I consulted with various people concerned and conveyed a message of condolence to the United States Ambassador to Japan through my Grand Chamberlain.
Concerning the media, I believe that to respect someone's privacy is very important since it is to respect his or her human dignity. Also, it is extremely difficult to amend incorrect reports that contravene personal privacy, and at times reports that contradict reality continue to circulate in society for a surprisingly long time. I may cite, as a rather funny example, the report that when I asked the Empress to marry me, I was alleged to have said, �gAll I need is you and your wicker trunk.�h In fact, no such words ever passed my lips.
Concerning the balance between public and private activities of the Imperial Family, members of the Imperial Family who had not yet come of age rarely took part in official activities when I was growing up. I, under such circumstances, came to be more conscious of my public position than before around the time of my Coming of Age Ceremony and Investiture as Crown Prince when I was 18, and the subsequent travel abroad to visit Europe and the United States. Later, it was when I married that I came to really deepen my awareness of my own public role. At a relatively young age I became the father of three children and during the same period my official duties also increased, including my travels overseas in an official capacity representing the Emperor. For me, family was important, but to do my utmost for the nation and society in assistance to Emperor Showa, including those return visits I made in accordance with international protocol, took precedence over all else. I am grateful to the Empress for fully understanding these sentiments and for making our children understand them as well.
We cannot completely remove ourselves from our public position even during the time we spend privately. If I were to divide my public activities into two categories, one being those I perform as a matter of course in my position as Emperor, and the other being those which are meant to elevate my personal capacities and develop myself more fully, overwhelming weight rests with the former category.