Date:May 14, 2007
Imperial Palace, Tokyo
The Linnean Society of London approached us three years ago about the possibility of our participating in the society's commemorative events celebrating the 300th anniversary of the birth of Linné in 2007, and we later received an invitation from the Government of the United Kingdom. Then last year, there was also an invitation from the Government of Sweden for the commemorative events that would be taking place in that country to celebrate the 300th anniversary of the birth of Linné. We accepted these invitations and will be visiting both countries.
In 1980, when I was Crown Prince, the Linnean Society of London elected me to become a foreign member for my contributions to ichthyology. Looking at the list of foreign members, I saw that there were 50 and the only other Japanese was Hiroshi Hara, Professor Emeritus of the University of Tokyo in the field of botany. I thought that I was not worthy of the membership, but it has served as an encouragement for me to exert effort into my research. The year after I was chosen to become a member, I visited the Linnean Society of London together with the then Crown Princess when we visited the country on the occasion of the wedding of the Prince of Wales. I was elected as an honorary member of the society in 1986, and I remain so today. Considering this relationship I have had with the Linnean Society of London, I am delighted to be able to attend its commemorative events for the 300th anniversary of the birth of Linné.
I believe that the achievement of Linné that continues until today is his creation of binomial nomenclature for scientific names. Scientific names consist of a combination of a genus name and a species name. Prior to the establishment of binomial nomenclature, the species name in scientific naming was the part that indicated characteristics distinguishing one species from other species in the same genus. Accordingly, when there were multiple species in the same genus, and a species needed to be distinguished from other species based on a number of characteristics, the species name would become longer. Instead of the genus name being combined with a species name of unspecified length, what Linné established was scientific naming based on binomial nomenclature, in which the genus name is combined with a one-word species name that does not necessarily denote the species' characteristics. The description indicating a species' characteristics was separated and no longer incorporated into the scientific name. As a result of these changes, scientific names have been simplified and facilitated into two words. Today, this system is used universally around the world for the names of plants and animals, and it is used by many people, not just those in academic circles. Two words are easier to remember, and it is possible to use the species name when speaking about plants and animals. A great number of people from overseas visit the East Gardens of the Imperial Palace. Taking into consideration the overseas visitors who enjoy looking at plants, the scientific names of plants are displayed together with their Japanese names.
In Sweden, I am looking forward to once again meeting Their Majesties the King and Queen of Sweden, who visited Japan as State Guests in March. Two days after we arrive, together with Their Majesties the King and Queen, we will be attending a commemorative event for the 300th anniversary of the birth of Linné to take place at Uppsala University, where Linné was a professor, and pay tribute to his accomplishments. The last time that I visited Uppsala University was more than 20 years ago when I visited Sweden with the then Crown Princess as a representative of Emperor Showa to reciprocate the State visit to Japan of Their Majesties the King and Queen of Sweden. Linné's student Carl Peter Thunberg, who served as a medical doctor at the Dutch Trading Post in Nagasaki, was also a professor at Uppsala University. Thunberg paid a visit to Japan during the country's period of isolation. The year before Thunberg's visit to Japan, the “Kaitai-shinsho,” literally the new book of anatomy, was translated by Sugita Genpaku and others from Dutch to Japanese, and published. It was a time when Dutch studies were receiving a great deal of attention and there was a growing interest in the medical science of Europe. Some of the doctors who had been involved in translating the “Kaitai-shinsho” continued to write to Thunberg after he had returned to Sweden, and I was happy to be able to view those letters at Uppsala University. Reading Thunberg's journals from the time he was in Japan, it is possible to feel the warm character of Thunberg, who attempted to understand the people who grew up in a different culture.
Between the commemorative events celebrating the 300th anniversary of Linné's birth in Sweden and in the United Kingdom, we will also be visiting Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, upon invitation by Their Excellencies the Presidents of these three countries. Those countries, once under the control of the Russian Empire, declared independence in 1918 after the Russian Revolution. They lost their independence in 1940, however, upon annexation by the Soviet Union. During World War II, their land was turned into a battlefield in the war between Germany and the Soviet Union, resulting in the loss of many lives. With the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the three countries finally recovered their independence. The Soviet Union later became 15 independent states, and as these three countries were the first to gain independence, we watched this with great interest at the time. The year after Lithuania gained independence under harsh conditions, the leader, Chairman Vytautas Landsbergis of the Supreme Council, and Mrs. Landsbergis visited Japan, and I remember meeting them at the Imperial Palace with the Empress. Chairman Landsbergis was visiting Japan as a researcher of Mikalojus Konstantinas Ciurlionis, a Lithuanian painter and composer, to attend the artist's exhibition then held in Tokyo. We also went to see the exhibition later.
On the upcoming trip, I would like to reflect on the difficulties each of these countries have endured, deepen my understanding of their cultures, and contribute to the promotion of mutual understanding and friendly relations between Japan and these three countries.
As for the question of what I have learned from the achievements of Linné in my pursuit of academic research, I would say, although this may not be an appropriate answer, that through the study of taxonomy I have learned the importance of preserving specimens. According to the International Codes of Zoological and Botanical Nomenclature, when there is more than one scientific name, the older name must be used. In connection with this provision, I have studied a specimen collected in 1828, and I was able to recognize the characteristics of the color of such an old specimen. This is thanks to the thorough care taken by museums in Europe and the United States to preserve their specimens in order to contribute to academic pursuit. We see these efforts at the Linnean Society of London, where Linné's collection is carefully preserved. Today, museums in Japan, too, are taking good care to preserve their specimens. In the past, however, the role of museums as educational institutions only was stressed, and specimens were for exhibition purposes. The National Museum of Nature and Science was built as The Museum of Education in 1877, in the 10th year of Meiji, and used to exhibit educational materials, including specimens. At that time, promotion of industry was very important for the country. I feel it regrettable that if more interest had been paid to natural history and taxonomy, we might have been able to save some animals from extinction, such as kunimasu, a kind of salmon of Lake Tazawa.
In commemoration of the 300th anniversary of the birth of Carl von Linné, we have been invited by both the United Kingdom, where the Linnean Society is located, and Sweden, Linné's native country. It is my pleasure to accompany His Majesty on these visits, which are closely associated with His Majesty's long-standing pursuit of biological study.
Along with these two countries, we are also to visit Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, upon invitation by these three republics that embrace the coast of the Baltic Sea. The moment in 1991 when the news came to us that these three countries had regained their independence is still fresh in my memory, and I am truly looking forward to having the opportunity to meet the people of each of these countries in our upcoming visits.
Although I am not deeply learned regarding the Swedish naturalist Linné, I am not completely unfamiliar with the scholar either, as I have spent my life with His Majesty, who studies taxonomy. Shortly after we were engaged, His Majesty, then the Crown Prince, talked to me from time to time about fish, which he was studying. He would always use the precise binomial nomenclature such as Tilapia mossambica and Oxyeleotris marmorata, whenever he referred to each individual fish. I was astonished, slightly awed and overwhelmed that I was going to marry into such a family.
In the past five to six years, the gardening section staff of the Imperial Household Agency have been putting a name tag on each of the trees and plants in the East Gardens of the Imperial Palace. On each tag, the staff have put the academic name in addition to the Japanese, in response to the wishes of His Majesty, who had in mind the convenience of the many guests from overseas visiting the Gardens. I find it wonderful that people all over the world are now able to identify natural beings under their common names designated under the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature, based on Linné's ideas.
For a long time my knowledge about Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania was limited to the names of some places in the region in association with the Hanseatic League. However, in 1985, I was given a book entitled “My Years by the Baltic Sea,” which taught me the history of these countries. I learned that although they are often identified as the three Baltic states, they are in fact three indigenously separate peoples, each with its own language, that each pursued freedom and prosperity as an independent country between the two world wars, and that each had to experience long and difficult times in the later period.
The three countries became independent in 1991, and that means about six years after I read the book. Shortly after independence, Lithuania's leader, Chairman Vytautas Landsbergis of the Supreme Council, visited Japan. Through his visit, the knowledge I had acquired in the book about the three countries suddenly became more real. Now it is my great joy to be able to visit these countries although for only a limited time. On this occasion, I would like to make an effort to understand as much as possible the hardship that the people in these countries have experienced in the past and also deepen my understanding of the national pride that these people never lost even during their time of difficulties, as well as about each of their inherited cultures, which must have sustained their pride during those years.
Besides attending programs of the Linnean Society in the United Kingdom, the last stop on our upcoming trip, we are to attend the 25th anniversary of the foundation of Helen House, the world's first hospice for children, upon an unexpected and welcome invitation from the House. Two years ago I had an occasion to meet with a few patients from the House, when they visited Japan, accompanied by their parents and staff members. As His Majesty and I, coincidentally, will be in the United Kingdom in the very year that marks their 25th anniversary, it became possible to accept their invitation. Recalling with fondness our meeting two years ago and the faces of the children, those who accompanied them, and Sister Francis, the founder of the hospice, I am looking forward to the day of our reunion.
I anticipate that as I visit Helen House, and its later addition Douglas House, and meet the children who try to live each moment of their lives to the full, and those people attending to them, it will be a day for me to reflect deeply on what it means for us to live and to be at each other's side as a friend.
Over the years the Empress has overcome various hardships, and has supported me and carried out her numerous official duties both in Japan and overseas. Four years ago, when I underwent surgery, she stayed over at the hospital and helped in the nursing. The Empress also visited me every day during my hospital stay and showed me the greeting sheets which the Imperial Household Agency opened for the public to sign, and conveyed to me the wishes of the people for my recovery. In addition to her concern about my condition, the Empress was anxious about the health of the Crown Princess and about Princess Akishino, who was diagnosed with placenta previa during her pregnancy. When I think about it now, these were times when the Empress was laden with many cares. Her illness this time happened suddenly and unexpectedly, so I was very worried. I am happy that she recovered her health over only two short periods of rest, which included weekends and national holidays, without having to withdraw from official duties.
On the upcoming overseas visit, we will stay only briefly in each country while keeping a busy schedule. However, we will be mindful of our health and would like to fulfill the objectives of the visit.
I always have reservations about making public any problems with my physical condition, but I agreed to the recent announcement, too, because I was afraid that taking time off without explaining why might cause people to assume that my health was worse than it actually was.
I would like to thank you for your concern and tell you that I have made good progress and I am now feeling fine. As the doctor announced, my condition was not accompanied by any pain or discomfort, and the only things needed for me to recuperate were rest and medication. I took about nine days off to rest at the end of March.
As I had never suffered from that condition before, I was a little bit worried until the symptoms disappeared. Nevertheless, I was given sufficient time to rest, and I have returned to my original health. I would like to express my deep gratitude for the get-well wishes and encouragement that I received from many people during that time.
It seems that the upcoming overseas visit will be a busy one, as it covers five different countries one after the other. I pray that, above all, His Majesty will remain in good health throughout the trip. I will also try to be careful about my own health so that I am able to carry out my duties by His Majesty's side, causing nobody trouble.
Around the time when we got married, there was no legislation allowing for temporary delegation of the acts of the matters of State conducted by the Emperor, so it was not possible for the Emperor to entrust matters of State to the Crown Prince and make overseas visits. That is why some time after welcoming a Head of State as a State Guest to Japan, the Crown Princess and I, as a representative of Emperor Showa, would pay a reciprocal visit to each of those countries.
In the year following our marriage, in September of 1960, we visited the United States as Crown Prince and Crown Princess on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the Japan-US Treaty of Amity and Commerce. Two months after that, in November, the Crown Princess and I traveled to Iran, Ethiopia, India, and Nepal, representing Emperor Showa and reciprocating the visits to Japan of their respective Heads of State. This visit to four countries marked the beginning of the visits which I, with the Crown Princess, made to many countries as a representative of Emperor Showa during the Showa Era. Visits to foreign countries such as these representing the Emperor continued even after 1964, when the legislation came into effect, allowing for temporary delegation of the acts of the matters of State conducted by the Emperor. It was in 1971 that a trip to various European countries by Emperor Showa and Empress Kojun was finally realized. I believe that this visit was a source of great joy for Emperor Showa and Empress Kojun, and we, too, were very happy about it. Paying a visit as a representative of the Emperor obliges the host country to receive us in a manner almost as if I were the Emperor. As I was afraid that this may be considered discourteous to the host country, such trips placed a heavy burden on me. I am deeply grateful to all the countries that generously received the request from the Government of Japan and gave us a warm welcome.
After the 1975 visit to the United States by Emperor Showa and Empress Kojun, due to their advancing years, I once again represented the Emperor and made overseas visits, together with the Crown Princess. In the years that followed, international exchange became quite frequent, and as the number of State Guests coming to Japan increased, although I did my very best to pay reciprocal visits, the Showa Era came to an end before it was possible for me to make reciprocal visits to all of those countries.
With the coming of the Heisei Era, we no longer visited foreign countries to reciprocate visits to Japan by State Guests. Rather, the Government of Japan now considers and decides which countries we should visit.
Looking back on our overseas visits, I believe that we were fortunate to have had the opportunities to visit many countries representing the Emperor and reciprocating the State Visits, although it was sometimes quite difficult because we also had to carry out many duties in Japan. It must have been especially difficult for the Empress, who did so while raising three children. However, the visits gave us many experiences and I think we were very fortunate. At the same time, in order to be accepted by overseas countries as a representative of the Emperor, I tried to be very strict with myself, and for this reason, we have never even once made an overseas visit in a private capacity.
Currently, the Crown Prince and Crown Princess do not make overseas visits as my representative. Therefore, I believe that they can be involved in international exchange, including overseas visits, in their status as Crown Prince and Crown Princess in a way that they themselves, the Government, and the people want them to. Since they have a broad range of options, I believe it is even more important for them to make appropriate decisions. I understand that they are concerned about and interested in international exchange, so I would like them to listen to the opinions of those concerned, carefully think about it together, and proceed.
I came into the Imperial Family in 1959 and, by then, as a result of the restoration of diplomatic relations after the war, ambassadors and ministers from various countries were already stationed in Japan. I knew that following my marriage I would be coming into contact with these people, but I had not heard anything about overseas visits. I was thus truly surprised and perplexed when several months after my marriage, a plan to visit the United States in May of the following year was suddenly presented. At that time I was pregnant with Crown Prince Naruhito, and I was told that the baby was due in early March. On that visit, I was expected to accompany the Crown Prince, and so I was concerned that if I were to travel in May, I would have to stop breast-feeding after less than two months. I was also worried that since we were going to be visiting eight different cities in the United States, including Honolulu, in a period of two weeks, I might not be able to hold up physically so soon after giving birth and that I would be an inconvenience to everyone. I deliberated for a long time about whether my concern was a selfish one, but after much consideration, I consulted the then Grand Master and Councilors of the Crown Prince's Household and asked them for their understanding. To my great relief, the United States side generously rescheduled the trip to September.
Since then, I have accompanied His Majesty to 52 countries on official visits. Of these, our visits to 16 countries or so were carried out while our children were born and they were still babies, so I was sometimes anxious that I would no longer be able to continue to carry on, as these trips that were interwoven closely with my other official duties at home. At any rate, together with His Majesty, I continued to build on each trip as an experience, each time reflecting on what I had learned, and wholeheartedly proceeded onto the next trip. I believe that through these visits I have been able to deepen my awareness of Japan and deep love for it-a rather difficult feeling to express in words-and that based on this feeling, I have come to fathom the love that people of other countries have for their home country. I now feel that I have been most fortunate to have been given the opportunity to make each of these trips, and I am truly grateful.
As for the question on what we expect from the Crown Prince and Crown Princess regarding future international exchanges, including visits to foreign countries, I believe that the Crown Prince and Crown Princess have their own hopes for what they would like to accomplish and ideas about how they would like to approach exchanges. That is the most important thing, and I would like to refrain from putting my hopes and expectations ahead of theirs.
I will only say that I now believe and hope that the Crown Prince and Crown Princess will make the most of the experience that they have gained until now and that the two of them will lead the way to build a sound future for the Imperial Family in various respects, and I would like to watch over them as they do so.
Looking back, I feel that the most challenging period was at the time of my Accession to the Throne. As this was the first time that the series of events related to the Accession to the Throne took place under the stipulations of the Constitution of Japan, various discussions were held. The Ceremonies of the Accession to the Throne took place at the Imperial Palace in the presence of many foreign Heads of State and other distinguished guests, and The Great Thanksgiving Festival also took place smoothly without incident in the East Gardens of the Imperial Palace. I am deeply grateful to the many individuals who were involved in carrying out this series of events. Moreover, I was very happy that during this period the Empress always supported me cheerfully.
I believe that the way to meet the expectations of the people is to do all that I can for the nation and for the people, while bearing in mind the traditions of Emperor Showa and the previous Emperors, who wished for the happiness of the people, and also bearing in mind the stipulation of the Constitution that the Emperor shall be the symbol of the State and of the unity of the People.
Today, with the encouragement of so many people, I am able to fulfill those duties as Emperor, which makes me very happy.
I recall how there was a time when I was still a student that Hans Selye's theories on stress received a lot of attention in Japan. However, when I was young, the term “pressure” was not very commonly used in society. This was when Japan was trying to recover what it had lost in the devastation of the war and was channeling all its efforts into the recovery. Perhaps at that time all Japanese people were living under a great deal of pressure, so it may have been an era in which pressure was, in a sense, common to all of society and was taken for granted to be there.
Perhaps because there were still lingering remnants from those days that, though there were days in my new life after my marriage when I would be overwhelmed by the rigors of my position, with its great demands and expectations, I do not think that I viewed such a situation as being “pressure.” Nevertheless, I always carried with me a sad and apologetic feeling for not being able to fully meet people's expectations and demands. This is true not only of then, but now as well. There are also times when I am not very confident about my judgment on certain matters, and I am not sure if my decision is the right one. Rather than a certain incident at a certain time being a major challenge, you could say that having had to live with this apprehension and sadness each and every day has been quite a significant challenge for me.
When I am sad or apprehensive, there is nothing I can do to deal with it. I might pray or sometimes I might say some childish magic words. Strangely but in recent years, for some reason, I sometimes have a sense that in my state of sadness and uncertainty I find myself to be quietly connecting with other people. This feeling of solidarity is a very vague one, and it may be nothing more than an illusion, but it is as though I am being rewarded for the way that I have lived up to this point, and I feel solaced and encouraged.
I recall that a long time ago I saw a film of Shakespeare's Henry V. It was before the Peace Treaty came into effect and I saw this film at the invitation of Sir Alvary Gascoigne of the United Kingdom Liaison Mission to Japan, who was equivalent to the British ambassador today. I recall some scenes, one in which the King of France sends tennis balls to Henry V and another in which heavily armed French knights are lifted up to mount their horses and together head off towards the British military camp enclosed by a fence, but I do not recall the scene in question.
The year after the Peace Treaty came into effect, I attended the Coronation for Her Majesty the Queen of the United Kingdom. I visited many countries in Europe and North America before and after attending the ceremony. At the Coronation and during the affiliated events, I interacted with the other participants as one of the many participants and, although I did not hide my identity, I was quite free and enjoyed myself very much. At one reception, the former United States Secretary of State George C. Marshall asked the Hereditary Prince of Luxembourg to introduce himself to me, and the result was interesting indeed because the Hereditary Prince of Luxembourg, whom I was also meeting for the first time, ended up introducing Secretary of State Marshall to me. Foreign Heads of State do not attend the Coronation, but many of those in attendance there later on became monarchs. In fact, the Hereditary Prince of Luxembourg, whom I spoke of earlier, later on became the Grand Duke. In fact, seated next to me at the Coronation was the Late Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Fahd of Saudi Arabia, who recently passed away. At the time, I was 19 years old, and the participant who was closest to me in age was the current King of the Belgians.
As for disguising myself and doing something, right now I cannot think of anything I want to do.
I enjoy interacting with nature and engaging in research, and I would be very glad if I had more time to spend doing those things. During the upcoming overseas visits as well, if time permits, I would like to walk through the countryside together with experts and observe the flora and fauna. However, we have a busy itinerary throughout this trip, and there are events that I must attend immediately after my return to Tokyo, so I do not have any such plans. The day after we return, the Empress will attend the Reception of the International Council of Nurses Conference, and at the beginning of the following week, the Empress and I will attend the Opening Ceremony and Reception of the International Nuclear Physics Conference.
After that, we intend to take a few days off to rest and relax in Hayama. When we are in Hayama, we often enjoy walking along the shore and have a chance to meet various people, both the local residents and those from other regions who happen to have come on an outing that day. I recall that when we visited Hayama this winter, we had a lovely view of the sunset and Mt. Fuji, shining in the setting sun. When she was sharing the beauty of the moment with many others, the Empress seemed so happy. The Empress and I also often go in the opposite direction from the beach and take walks on the mountain path along the river. There is a place along that path where Japanese paradise flycatchers build their nests, and we often meet birdwatchers who come to see them. We have spent some lovely times there, watching together with those people, the sight of Japanese paradise flycatchers with only their tails protruding from the nests, as well as the view of those birds flying through the Japanese cedar forest trailing their long tails behind them.
Neither the Empress nor myself want to hide our status, but rather, we both feel the happiest when we are accepted as we are by the people.
In case my memory proves to be incorrect, I borrowed the book from the university library and read it again for the first time in many years.
I suppose the first part of the question refers to the scene in which Henry V disguises his status and talks with passing soldiers in an English army camp so that he can find out how the soldiers feel about him, their King.
As for the main part of the question of where I would choose to go and what I would like to do if I were able to spend a day incognito, surprisingly my imagination is limited. There was once a good exhibition at a museum in Tokyo, and I was very much interested in seeing it, but I learned that to get to the museum I would have to walk across the very crowded premises of a terminal station to reach an elevator, and that this would require considerable control of people's movements. So I gave up, lest I should hold up many people. Although it may be slightly different from disguising my status, as referred to in the question, at that time I wished I could become an invisible person just to walk through those premises.
That reminded me of the time when I was invited to a meeting at the Tokyo Children's Library. Representing all the day's participants, the Director of the Library presented me with a kakuremino, or a disguising straw coat, which appears in some Japanese folktales. It is a convenient coat that makes you invisible to other people once you are wearing it. With this coat, perhaps I can enjoy myself more, for there would be no trouble of disguising myself or trying to make up a fictitious name. The members of the Imperial Guards and the Metropolitan Police Department might be still slightly worried, but I think in the end they would let me go, telling me not to forget to take care. I would first rehearse walking smoothly through a crowded station to prepare for the next exhibition, and after that, I would perhaps go to the second-hand bookstores in the Kanda and Jimbo-cho districts, which I used to frequent as a student. What fun it would be to once again spend hours just browsing through the books!