Soon a year will have elapsed since we were struck by the most terrible disaster since the war, the great Hanshin Awaji Earthquake that brought deep sorrow to so many people. During this past year the victims who had to suffer the death of relatives and friends or bear the pain of losing their homes, have striven hard to cope. Now that the weather is getting colder and colder, I am worried about the health of those victims who are still living under severe conditions, especially the elderly. I sincerely hope that the devastated area will be restored without delay and that the people may know some ease and comfort in their lives.
Since last year marked the fiftieth anniversary of the end of the war, various memorial events and ceremonies were held. For all of us, I think it was a deeply meaningful year, being an occasion to mourn the war dead, to deepen our understanding of past history and to renew our desire for peace.
In early summer we had a prolonged wet period, which was worrying since it brought back to mind the cold summer of three years ago. But luckily the weather changed for the better and I am happy that in most regions the harvest was good.
It is my ardent wish that the new year will be a happy one for the Japanese people as well as for all the people of the world.