I wish to extend a heartfelt welcome to Your Excellency Mr. Hu Jintao, President of the People's Republic of China, and Mrs. Liu Yongqing, on the occasion of your State Visit to Japan. I am truly pleased to be able to spend this evening together with you. I first met Your Excellency the President at the Imperial Palace 10 years ago, when you visited Japan as the Vice President of your country in 1998 to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Japan-China Peace and Friendship Treaty. Now I am delighted to welcome you once again, this time as the President of the People's Republic of China.
The Empress and I visited your country in 1992, the year that marked the 20th anniversary of the normalization of diplomatic ties between Japan and China. I still cherish the fond memory of the kind hospitality shown by President Yang Shangkun who had, along with the Government of the People's Republic of China, invited us, and of the warm welcome we received from many people in the places we visited.
During our trip, our stay at Xi'an was delightful, as I had wanted to visit the city, formerly Chang'an, the capital of the Tang Dynasty, which Japan's official envoys to Tang visited together with Japanese students and scholarly priests from the seventh to the ninth century. They returned home with various documents and objects that were earnestly studied by the Japanese of that era. What Japan learned from Tang is still discernable in our heritage, such as the ancient urban planning of Kyoto and Nara, the latter of which will mark the 1300th anniversary of its foundation the year after next. The legal and governance system that Japan adopted in that era is another example of such influence. Cultural exchanges between Tang and Japan at that time can also be traced at the historical Shosoin Repository in Nara. There we can still appreciate many items brought to Japan from China, that were cherished by Emperor Shomu, who reigned during the first half of the eighth century. Furthermore, Toshodaiji temple, also in Nara, which Your Excellency is scheduled to visit, was established by the Tang priest Jian Zhen, and will commemorate the 1250th anniversary of its foundation next year. Jian Zhen experienced obstructions, shipwrecks and other mishaps in his efforts to come to Japan. But after five abortive attempts, he finally succeeded in his mission, supported not only by the strong desire on the Japanese side to have him in Japan, but also by his firm determination that never waned, despite the loss of his eyesight. In Nara, he taught Buddhist discipline to Ex-emperor Shomu, Empress Dowager Koumyou, Empress Koken and numerous officials. As Jian Zhen's voyages suggest, crossing the ocean at that time involved immense risks. Many people were lost to the perils of the sea. My heartfelt appreciation goes to those people who braved voyages undaunted by such dangers to further contacts with other cultures.
In recent years, the cooperation between our countries has borne delightful fruits. One such example is the successful breeding of Japanese crested ibis on Sado Island. Japanese crested ibises were distributed in wide areas from the northeastern part of Russia to China and eastward, before their extinction in each of these habitats. In 1981, when the last five birds on Sado Island were caught for the purpose of artificial breeding, people thought wild Japanese crested ibises had disappeared from the world. Thankfully, however, a number of birds were found in the same year in Yang Prefecture, in the Shaanxi Province of China. Unfortunately, the Japanese crested ibis all died after failed attempts to mate them. In spite of such setbacks, mutual exchange between our two countries continued for the purpose of reviving the species through cross-breeding efforts and other initiatives that also enriched our knowledge about the reproduction of Japanese crested ibis. Against this backdrop of collaborative endeavors, three Japanese crested ibises were donated to Japan by President Jiang Zeming, who visited Japan as a State Guest, and Premier Zhu Rongji, who visited Japan as an Official Guest. The offspring of the three birds have grown soundly, and now more than a hundred are under human care. I have heard that some of them are scheduled to be released into the wild this autumn. Reflecting on the efforts of the people who cooperated across our borders for many years, I look forward to seeing Japanese crested ibises soar across the skies of Japan on their white wings, which will soon become a symbol of the friendship that exists between our two countries.
I have learnt that, in commemoration of this year's 30th anniversary of the signing of the Japan-China Peace and Friendship Treaty, numerous exchange programs will be carried out between our two countries in the context of the “Japan-China Youth Friendship Exchange Year”. I believe that it is particularly significant for the youth of the two nations to foster their friendship through these exchange activities, as it is becoming increasingly important for Japan and China to work together in various fields. I am hopeful that people of our two countries will share their reflection upon the long history and further strengthen their bond of friendship towards the future.
In August, we will see the 29th Olympic Games in Beijing. It is my heartfelt wish that the Olympic Games will be an opportunity for people around the world to deepen their friendship and goodwill.
Now Japan is in a beautiful season with the fresh green leaves of spring. I sincerely hope that this visit will be a fruitful one that will offer lasting memories.
I would now like to propose a toast to the good health of Your Excellency Mr. Hu Jintao and Mrs. Liu Yongqing, and to the happiness of the people of the People's Republic of China.
First of all, I would like to express our sympathy for the Spanish soldiers who lost their lives to a terrorist attack in Afghanistan yesterday.
I wish to extend a heartfelt welcome to His Majesty the King Juan Carlos I and Her Majesty the Queen Sofia of the Kingdom of Spain on the occasion of your State Visit to Japan. I am truly pleased to be able to spend this evening with you.
We first met Your Majesties in 1962, when you visited Japan shortly after your marriage, when we were all still in our 20s. You visited Japan on two further occasions prior to Your Majesty's coronation and on three occasions after that. On our part, I visited your country for the first time in 1953, when I was still single. After our marriage, we visited your country on two occasions prior to my accession to the throne and on one occasion after that. Though these visits were all short ones, they took place over a long time span, enabling us to witness the development of our two countries.
My first visit to your country was a year after the Peace Treaty between Japan and the allied powers following World War II took effect. Japan had incurred huge damage from the war. I saw that your country, too, had incurred damage from the civil war and the people of your country were suffering hardships similar to those experienced by my people at the time. I still remember that, despite such difficult conditions, the people of your country were cheerful, and I was touched that many of those I met showed affinity towards Japan.
In 1973, when we were still Crown Prince and Princess, we made my second and the Empress's first visit to your country. It was to reciprocate your Official Visit to Japan the previous year. We were warmly welcomed by General Franco and many other people in Madrid, and you both extended your heartfelt hospitality to us by accompanying us to Bilbao and Seville. At a banquet in the southern city of Seville, we enjoyed the performance of a flamenco troupe which included a Japanese dancer. I also remember fondly that after the banquet, we four had a relaxed midnight stroll in the town. On the occasion of our stay in the northern city of Santillana del Mar, we were able to visit Altamira Cave, an archaeological site familiar to me as I had heard about it in my childhood. At the Monastery of San Lorenzo de El Escorial, founded by Felipe II, we had a chance to see a copy of the ancient Japanese work of poetry Wakan Roeishu, which was printed at a seminary in Kyushu, Japan, around the turn of the 17th century. The legacy was yet another reminder of the historical exchanges between our two countries. During this tour, we also visited the cities of Toledo, Santander, Granada and Cordoba, through which we had a glimpse of the spectrum of Spanish history.
We were able to visit your country again in 1985 and 1994, after Your Majesty the King ascended to the throne. Setting foot on the soil of Spain after your coronation, the first impression we had was that your country was making great strides towards building a democratic society. We were profoundly moved and those vivid impressions still remain in our memory. Your country has now developed into a stable democracy, and I am sure that tremendous efforts by Your Majesty the King contributed to this achievement. In particular, the valiant decision you made that resulted in suppressing the coup d'etat in a peaceful manner has left a strong impact.
Today, it is truly delightful to see Spain, which plays a key role in international society and in the European Union, join hands with Japan in advancing mutual ties of friendship and cooperation in many fields, including trade, investment, tourism, culture and international cooperation. We sincerely hope that exchanges amongst people in various fields will further enrich our bilateral relations and deepen the mutual understanding between our peoples.
On this occasion I understand Your Majesties will travel to Kyoto, which you visited during your stay in Japan as newly-weds. We were also in Kyoto at the beginning of this month to attend the millennium ceremony of the Tale of Genji. Our visit coincided with the leaves starting to change color. By the time Your Majesties will arrive in Kyoto, I trust that you will be able to enjoy the autumn colors at their best. We sincerely hope that this visit to Japan will be a joyful and fruitful one for your Majesties.
I would now like to propose a toast to the good health of Your Majesty the King Juan Carlos I and Her Majesty the Queen Sofia, and to the happiness of the people of the Kingdom of Spain.