Taking this opportunity, I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude for all the concern shown me by the people when I underwent heart surgery in February of this year, such as those who came to sign the register books at the Palace and elsewhere during this period. I would also like to thank all the people who continue to wish me well.
A year and nine months has gone by since the Great East Japan Earthquake, and the cold, harsh winter is back again in the afflicted areas. There are people who are unable to return to their homes they used to live in because of radioactive contamination, and people who must spend their second winter in temporary housing covered in snow. My heart goes out to all those afflicted. The number of dead or missing at the time of the disaster was reported to be over 18,000, but since then, there have been more than 2,000 disaster-related deaths, bringing the total number of victims to over 20,000. Many who survived the terrible earthquake and tsunami lost their lives because of harsh living conditions where sufficient medical care and other needs could not be provided. I feel this is indeed a tragedy. Recovery and reconstruction efforts in the afflicted areas include radioactive decontamination, removal of possible asbestos-containing debris harmful to health, and other dangerous tasks. Many of these operations pose health risks to those engaged in them, which is of deep concern. The Empress and I observed the radioactive decontamination operation being carried out in the village of Kawauchi in Fukushima Prefecture. The work consisted of climbing onto a roof and hosing away the contamination with water, work requiring great caution and concentration, which could lead to an accident otherwise. I sincerely hope that all operations will be carried out safely.
One of the social issues of concern is the rapidly ageing population. I believe that the problem is particularly serious in rural areas far away from the cities. Last winter there were more than 130 snow-related deaths, many of whom were elderly people who died while removing snow. I myself have noticed that I have become more prone to tripping while I was walking on mountain paths in recent years. I sincerely hope that conditions can be improved so that the elderly can live safely even in snowy regions. It never occurred to me when I was younger that the incidence of tripping and falling would increase with old age.
Looking back over the past year, I feel it has been an eventful year. In happier news, Japanese athletes gave excellent performances at the London Olympic and Paralympic Games. Japan won more medals at the London Olympics than at any past Olympic Games. At the Paralympic Games, Japanese athletes performed well in various events, including Shingo Kunieda in the Wheelchair Tennis men's singles, who won his second consecutive gold medal following the Beijing Games. I enjoyed watching on television the Goalball game when Japan won the gold medal. I was impressed by the way the athletes blocked the ball using their agility and acute senses. I am deeply moved when I realize that a game for the physically challenged, first introduced in the United Kingdom as rehabilitation for those with paraplegia, is now fully accepted as a sport.
Another very happy news was Professor Shinya Yamanaka being awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. In particular, I have high hopes that his great achievement will promote regenerative medicine and bring much happiness to many people in the coming years.
This year marked the Diamond Jubilee of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. The Empress and I were invited and attended the commemorative event for monarchs from various countries. Among them, the only ones who attended both Her Majesty's Coronation and the Diamond Jubilee were His Majesty King Albert II of the Belgians and myself. We were 18 and 19 at the time of the Coronation. I recall with much fondness the memories of the time I attended the Coronation as a young man.
After my surgery, I experienced some after-effects such as difficulty in doing the most simple things like running and hitting the ball when playing tennis, but I feel I can now hit the ball nearly as well as I used to. I realized the importance of rehabilitation. I had heard that among elderly evacuees those who used to be engaged in physical work such as agriculture or fishery became ill when there was little physical activity in their lives. After my surgery and rehabilitation, I could see how true this was. I learned about my heart condition after tests were carried out. I decided to undergo surgery when I was told about the risk of a myocardial infarction. With regard to timing, I expressed my wish to attend the ceremony commemorating the first anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake, so the surgery was carried out to meet this schedule. I was very happy when I learned that the surgery was a success. I am most grateful to Professor Amano of Juntendo University Hospital, who performed the surgery, and to all those who were involved in the operation. As for managing my health, I believe it is important to keep my muscles from weakening, so I have been continuing my usual early morning strolls and also make the effort to engage in physical exercise as much as possible. The Empress came to see me every day during my hospital stay, giving me much reassurance and comfort. When I had to walk along the hospital corridors as part of my rehabilitation after the surgery, the Empress walked with me, seeing to it that a variety of music could be heard in the corridors, and seemingly enjoying the walks Herself. I am very touched to know that members of my family each expressed their concern for me in their own way.
In addition to the matters of state designated by the Constitution of Japan, the duties of the Emperor include symbolic duties which His status as a symbol makes it appropriate for the Emperor to take on officially. Among them are the National Arbor Day Festival and the award ceremony for the Japan Academy Prize, both of which I attend every year. Emperor Showa continued to carry out those duties even after he turned eighty. As for reducing my responsibilities, careful consideration must be taken in the case of official duties as it will need to be based on the principle of fairness. I would like to maintain the status quo for the time being. Should I be taken ill, the Crown Prince and Prince Akishino will carry out my duties on my behalf, just as they did last year. I am not worried about this at all as I have full confidence in them.
Our last visit to Okinawa was 8 years ago, and many of the places we went to this time included places we had never been to before. The Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology, or O.I S.T., was one such place. We had been to Onnason before, but not to the O.I.S.T., and it was also the first time for us to visit Manzamo. Another first for us was the island of Kumejima. Whenever we visit Okinawa, the Empress and I visit the graves of the war dead to offer our prayers. As this visit included both our regular stops, where we offer our prayers on each visit, as well as new places, I feel I have been able to deepen my understanding of Okinawa even further. Manzamo is a historical place which has been sung in the Okinawan poetry Ryu-ka, and I was moved to have been able to visit this place. We had a great view of Mt. Onnadake. I feel that the Deep Sea Water Research Center in Kumejima could be of importance to that island in various ways. The warm welcome we received by so many people in Okinawa shall always remain in our hearts. I am aware of the many difficulties the people of Okinawa have had to endure. That is all the more why I feel it is so important that not only the people of Okinawa but also all the people of Japan are always mindful of the many problems Okinawa is facing. No other place in Japan has experienced ground warfare where so many lives were lost. I am deeply concerned that over the years this history, too, may gradually be forgotten. I feel it is important for all Japanese people to share with the people of Okinawa the memory of the calamity sustained by Okinawa in the last war.
Today His Majesty the Emperor celebrates His 79th birthday.
In February last year, His Majesty underwent a coronary angiography, which confirmed some narrowing of the coronary artery, and thereafter He had been taking medication for the condition. In order to maintain the same level of activity and further improve His health, His Majesty entered the University of Tokyo Hospital in February this year to undergo coronary artery bypass surgery, an operation that took some four hours. For some time after the surgery, He had fluid buildup in His chest, but the condition steadily improved as He continued His rehabilitation. For His Majesty, this year was one in which He performed His duties to the greatest extent possible while making efforts to overcome His illness and return to health, all the time giving thought to the victims of the Great East Japan Earthquake and the state of recovery and reconstruction.
In March, just a week after being released from hospital, His Majesty, together with Her Majesty the Empress, attended the Memorial Service to Commemorate the First Anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake. In May, Their Majesties attended an international conference held under the joint auspices of the Science Council of Japan in Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture, and took the opportunity to visit emergency temporary housing in that city. In July, They visited the village of Sakae, Nagano Prefecture, which was severely damaged by the earthquake that struck northern Nagano a day after the Great East Japan Earthquake. In October, They went to the village of Kawauchi and the city of Tamura, in Fukushima Prefecture, where They observed the radioactive decontamination efforts underway in the village of Kawauchi. Together with Her Majesty the Empress, His Majesty visited the people affected by the disasters and expressed appreciation for the hard work of those supporting them. During this period, Their Majesties also received briefings on the status of the reconstruction, support and radioactive decontamination activities and other matters on six occasions, bringing the total number of briefings They received on the Great East Japan Earthquake to 39.
While He was hospitalized for surgery, His Majesty entrusted His official duties of state to His Imperial Highness the Crown Prince from February 17 through April 10. Apart from this period, His Majesty performed His official duties approximately twice a week, signing and setting His official seal to a total of 725 documents submitted by the Cabinet. He also attended many ceremonies and events, including the accreditation of 101 Ministers of State and other senior officials, and the presentation of Letters of Credentials by 34 newly-arrived foreign ambassadors. He presided over awards and decoration ceremonies for the Order of the Grand Cordon and the Order of Culture and received in audience the recipients of decorations. Together with Her Majesty the Empress, His Majesty attended 18 awards ceremonies and commemorative events. At the Imperial Residence and Imperial Palace, Their Majesties met with recipients of the Order of Culture and Persons of Cultural Merit, members of the Japan Academy and Japan Art Academy, persons newly recognized as maintaining Japan's intangible cultural properties, representatives of the Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers returning from their overseas posts, representatives of the Senior Overseas Volunteers and Volunteers for Nikkei Communities (both youths and seniors), recipients of the Japan Foundation Awards, and prize-winners of the London Olympic and Paralympic Games, expressing Their appreciation for the achievements of these individuals on a total of 28 occasions. They also received lectures on 12 occasions from administrative vice-ministers of government ministries, the Governor of the Bank of Japan, the Director-General of the Foreign Policy Bureau of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and others. In addition, on 36 occasions, Their Majesties received explanatory briefings regarding Their official visits and attendances, and on 55 occasions met with offerers of first-crop rice for the Niinamesai ritual and with members of the Palace voluntary workforce.
His Majesty, together with Her Majesty, has continued to promote international goodwill. From May 16 to 20 Their Majesties traveled to the United Kingdom, where They attended a luncheon in commemoration of the Diamond Jubilee of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and a dinner banquet hosted by His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall. During this visit, They met with people in Britain related to Japan, who had been involved in support activities following the Great East Japan Earthquake and expressed gratitude for their cooperation.
Their Majesties welcomed many state guests to Japan. In March this year They received in audience His Highness the Amir of Kuwait. (As it was soon after His Majesty's release from hospital, His Imperial Highness the Crown Prince attended the welcoming ceremony and hosted a banquet on behalf of His Majesty.) In October, Their Majesties attended the welcoming ceremony, received in audience, and hosted a banquet for Their Majesties the King and Queen of Malaysia. They also welcomed His Majesty the King of Bahrain and the Presidents of Peru and Slovakia, along with their First Ladies, as guests on official working visits, holding audiences and hosting luncheons for them. Their Majesties met with the President of Paraguay, the President of Armenia, the President of Afghanistan, the President and First Lady of Zambia, the President of Liberia, the President and First Lady of Panama, and the President and First Lady of Haiti. They also received in audience His Excellency the President of the Senate of Malaysia and Mrs. Jeffar, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, the Prime Minister of Norway and Ms. Ingrid Schulerud, and the Chairman of the National Assembly of Vietnam. Their Majesties also held banquets at the Imperial Residence for His Excellency former Prime Minister and Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore, Their Majesties the King and Queen of Sweden, and Their Royal Highnesses the Crown Prince and Princess of Belgium. They invited to tea at the Imperial Residence the Hereditary Prince of Liechtenstein, His Excellency Senator Daniel Inouye and Ms. Irene Hirano Inouye, and the Rector of the University of Salamanca in Spain. Their Majesties also hosted teas at the Imperial Palace for five national leaders and others attending the Fourth Japan-Mekong Summit Meeting and for 23 national leaders, their spouses, and others attending the Sixth Pacific Islands Leaders' Meeting.
Their Majesties have continued to strengthen the ties with the diplomatic corps serving in Tokyo. During the past year, Their Majesties invited to tea newly appointed foreign ambassadors and their spouses, representing 32 countries, held luncheons for ambassadors and their spouses who had been in Japan for three years or longer, representing 20 countries, and granted farewell audiences to ambassadors and their spouses from 13 countries upon completion of their assignments. Their Majesties also met with Japanese ambassadors and their spouses departing for overseas posts in 50 countries and invited to tea ambassadors and their spouses returning to Japan from 63 countries, and listened to various accounts of their experiences in the countries to which they had been assigned.
During the past year, Their Majesties made official regional visits to nine prefectures-Miyagi, Yamaguchi, Nagano, Niigata, Gifu (on two separate occasions), Yamanashi, Fukushima, Okinawa, and Kyoto-to a total of 15 cities, two towns, and three villages. In addition to the previously mentioned visits related to the Great East Japan Earthquake, His Majesty, together with Her Majesty, attended the National Arbor Day Festival (Yamaguchi Prefecture), the Opening Ceremony of the National Sports Festival (Gifu Prefecture), and the National Convention for the Development of an Abundantly Productive Sea (Okinawa Prefecture). They also carried out an observation tour of the Takeda Health Forest (Yamanashi Prefecture), founded by Imperial land grant, and in commemoration of the centennial of Emperor Meiji, paid Their respects at the Imperial mausoleums for Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken (Kyoto Prefecture). On all those occasions, Their Majesties took time to inspect local conditions.
Of these trips, Their Majesty's visit to Okinawa was Their first in eight years and Their ninth overall. On the day of Their arrival, They paid Their respects at the Okinawa Peace Hall, presented a bouquet to the surviving members of the Shiraume student nurse corps, and conversed with them. They then offered flowers and paid Their respects at the National War Dead Peace Mausoleum. When Their Majesties visit Okinawa, without fail They visit memorial facilities for the war victims on the first day of Their visit. (The Okinawa Peace Hall and the National War Dead Peace Mausoleum were not yet built on Their first two visits.) During this trip, Their Majesties went as far as the island of Kumejima for the first time.
Their visit to Yamanashi Prefecture was originally scheduled for November 2011, but as His Majesty was hospitalized at the time, He sent His Imperial Highness the Crown Prince to attend the centennial of the Takeda Health Forest, founded by Imperial land grant, and carried out an observation tour of the Takeda Health Forest in October this year. Their Majesties' trip to Gifu Prefecture for the National Sports Festival at the end of September coincided with the approach of Typhoon No. 17, an extremely powerful storm, and They decided to call off the visit to the city of Ogaki so that officials there could concentrate on preparing for the storm. Their Majesties did, however, visit the city in December on the way back from Their official visit to Kyoto Prefecture.
As part of His official duties, His Majesty made visits in and around Tokyo on 41 occasions. These included attending the opening of the Diet, the Memorial Ceremony for the War Dead, the award ceremonies for the Japan Prize, the Japan Art Academy Award and the Japan Academy Prize, now regular fixtures on Their Majesties' schedule, and various other award ceremonies and commemorative events. Other events near the capital included Their Majesties' attendance at the ceremony to commemorate the 10th annual meeting of the International Society for Stem Cell Research (Kanagawa Prefecture), Their visit to an institution in connection with Respect for the Aged Day and a company visit (Saitama Prefecture).
Together with Her Majesty the Empress, His Majesty made three trips to the Hayama Imperial Villa and one trip to the Nasu Imperial Villa. In the town of Nasu, as in other years, Their Majesties visited a local farmhouse. To observe the status of usage of the Imperial Villa grounds, which were transferred from the Imperial Household Agency to the purview of the Ministry of the Environment in accordance with His Majesty's wishes on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of His accession to the throne, Their Majesties followed up last year's visit to the Nasu Heisei-no-mori Field Centre with a visit to the Nasu Highlands Visitor Center this year. Their Majesties spent late August in Karuizawa and Kusatsu.
As for the ritual ceremonies of the Imperial Palace, His Majesty attended 17 occasions, including the ceremony to mark the centennial of the passing of Emperor Meiji. As His Majesty was prevented from performing the ceremonies of the Tenchosai, the Taisho-Tenno-reisai, the Saitansai, the Kinensai, the Shunki-koreisai and Shunki-shindensai and the Jinmu-Tenno-sai because He was indisposed, the Chief Ritualist and Vice Chief Ritualist performed those ceremonies on His behalf. For this year's Niinamesai, His Majesty took part in the Evening Ritual and Morning Ritual for shorter lengths of time, attending the ceremonies half way through the ritual.
On June 6 this year, His Imperial Highness Prince Tomohito of Mikasa passed away. In deep sorrow, Their Majesties went into mourning for five days, sharing in the grief of the bereaved family. Their Majesties paid four visits to his home during the period immediately following his passing, and They paid official visits to the Toshimagaoka Cemetery following the funeral rites and again after the ceremony to mark the 100th day after his passing, to pay Their respects. They also paid Their respects at the grave of His Imperial Highness Prince Takamado on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of his demise.
With regard to His research, His Majesty has been involved in producing the chapter on gobioid fishes in Fishes of Japan with Pictorial Keys to the Species since the first edition was published in 1993. This year, as the year before, the work of revision has been underway toward the publication of the third edition. His Majesty meets with the editor, Dr. Tetsuji Nakabo, professor of Kyoto University, at the Biological Laboratory of the Imperial Household together with the staff of the Laboratory to discuss the classification of gobioid fishes, and also carries out His own observational research via microscope at the Imperial Residence. He attended two meetings on fish classification held at the National Museum of Nature and Science this year.
In 2008, His Majesty published a jointly authored paper in the Bulletin of the National Museum of Nature and Science titled "Feeding habits and seasonal changes of Japanese raccoon dogs in the Imperial Palace grounds." Since then, He has continued His research into the feeding behavior of the animals that live in the grounds.
As in every year in the past, His Majesty Himself hand-sowed seed-rice, transplanted it, and hand-reaped the rice crop in the paddy field of the Biological Laboratory of the Imperial Household. Together with His children and grandchildren, His Majesty also sowed dry-land rice and millet, harvested the grain, and offered some of the millet for use in the Niinamesai ritual, together with the hand-reaped crop of rice. His Majesty also made an offering of rice plants with roots still attached, which He Himself had planted, to the Ise Shrine on the occasion of the Kannamesai ritual.
On February 17th this year, His Majesty entered the University of Tokyo Hospital, where He underwent coronary artery bypass surgery the following day. The operation went smoothly, with very little bleeding during the surgery, and afterwards His Majesty came out from the anesthesia without any problems. Following the surgery, He had some conditions including fluid buildup in His chest, but He was able to leave the hospital on March 4th. While His Majesty was hospitalized, Her Majesty the Empress also stayed overnight at the hospital nearly every other night and remained by His Majesty's side every day, caring for Him with great devotion. In all, some 100,000 people visited the Imperial Palace and other locations to sign ledgers wishing His Majesty a speedy recovery. His Majesty gave instructions to convey His sense of gratitude to the many people who prayed for the success of the operation.
For some time after leaving the hospital, His Majesty's recovery did not go so smoothly, and doctors carried out paracentesis twice in March to remove fluid from His chest. He gradually regained His health through a program of rehabilitation exercise, and by mid-October the fluid in His chest was confirmed to have subsided to minimal levels. His Majesty continues to take walks with Her Majesty the Empress each morning and to engage in regular exercise, taking up tennis again just before the summer. Exercise is a vital part of His Majesty's post-surgery rehabilitation, as well as a means of suppressing the side effects of the hormone treatment He is undergoing to prevent a recurrence of prostate cancer.
Next year His Majesty the Emperor will turn 80, an age known as sanju in Japanese.
When He has free time, His Majesty works on His research of gobioid fishes and enjoys reading and playing the cello. So that He may remain healthy and active for as long as possible, it is important that meticulous care be taken to support His health and that consideration be given so He may spend His days in a way befitting His age.
On December 23rd, His Majesty's birthday, He will receive felicitations from the staff of the Board of Chamberlains in the morning. Following this, His Majesty will attend five separate events at the Imperial Palace to receive felicitations from the members of the Imperial Family, the staff of the Imperial Household Agency and others. In between these events, His Majesty will appear on the balcony of the Chowa-den in the Imperial Palace to receive congratulations from the public on three separate occasions. In the afternoon, His Majesty will receive felicitations from the Prime Minister, the chair of the House of Councillors, and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, after which He will be joined by other members of the Imperial Family at a celebratory luncheon attended by the heads of the three branches of government, members of the Cabinet and representatives of various fields. This will be followed by tea with the diplomatic corps, tea with former senior officials of the Imperial Household Agency, and tea with lecturers and other guests. In the evening, His Majesty will receive birthday greetings from Her Imperial Highness Princess Aiko and other young Prince and Princesses of the Imperial Family. Later, His Majesty will sit down to a celebratory birthday dinner with Her Majesty, the children and their spouses.
|Time||Greetings received by||Birthday Celebrations||Attended by||Location|
|9:30 a.m.||Their Majesties The Emperor and Empress||Felicitations and Toast of Celebratory Sake||Grand Chamberlain and staff members of the Board of Chamberlains||Imperial Residence|
|10:00 a.m.||His Majesty The Emperor||Felicitations||Grand Steward, Senior Officials and Special Advisors of the Imperial Household Agency||Imperial Palace|
|10:05 a.m.||Her Majesty The Empress||Felicitations||Grand Steward, Vice-Grand Steward representing staff members, Special Advisors||Imperial Palace|
|10:20 a.m.||Their Majesties The Emperor and Empress and other members of the Imperial Family||Birthday felicitations from the public||Imperial Palace|
|10:30 a.m.||His Majesty The Emperor||Felicitations Ceremony||Their Imperial Highnesses The Crown Prince and Crown Princess and other members of the Imperial Family||Imperial Palace|
|10:30 a.m.||Her Majesty The Empress||Felicitations||The same as the above||Imperial Palace|
|10:45 a.m.||Their Majesties The Emperor and Empress||Toast of Celebratory Sake||Their Imperial Highnesses The Crown Prince and Crown Princess, other members of the Imperial Family, former members and relatives of the Imperial Family||Imperial Palace|
|11:00 a.m.||Their Majesties The Emperor and Empress and other members of the Imperial Family||Birthday felicitations from the public||Imperial Palace|
|11:05 a.m.||His Majesty The Emperor||Felicitations||Staff members of the Imperial Household Agency and the Imperial Guard Headquarters||Imperial Palace|
|11:30 a.m.||His Majesty The Emperor||Felicitations||Former staff members of the Imperial Household Agency and the Imperial Guard Headquarters||Imperial Palace|
|11:40 a.m.||Their Majesties The Emperor and Empress and other members of the Imperial Family||Birthday felicitations from the public||Imperial Palace|
|11:50 a.m.||His Majesty The Emperor||Felicitations||3 Representatives from the Toshokai||Imperial Palace|
|0:55 p.m.||His Majesty The Emperor||Felicitations Ceremony||Prime Minister, President of the House of Councillors, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court||Imperial Palace|
|1:00 p.m.||Their Majesties The Emperor and Empress and other members of the Imperial Family||Celebratory Luncheon||Prime Minister and other senior officials||Imperial Palace|
|3:00 p.m.||Their Majesties The Emperor and Empress and other members of the Imperial Family||Celebratory Tea||Heads of diplomatic corps and their spouses||Imperial Palace|
|3:30 p.m.||Their Majesties The Emperor and Empress||Celebratory Tea||Former Special Advisors, senior officials of the Imperial Household Agency, etc.||Imperial Palace|
|4:40 p.m.||Their Majesties The Emperor and Empress||Celebratory Tea||Lecturers, friends and others||Imperial Residence|
|6:00 p.m.||Their Majesties The Emperor and Empress||Felicitations||Their Imperial Highnesses Princess Aiko, Princess Kako, Prince Hisahito||Imperial Residence|
|6:30 p.m.||Their Majesties The Emperor and Empress||Celebratory Dinner||Their Imperial Highnesses The Crown Prince and Crown Princess, Prince and Princess Akishino, Mr. and Mrs. Kuroda||Imperial Residence|