Looking back over the past year, one of the events that have left a deep impression on me is the Nobel Prize in Physics awarded jointly to Dr. Isamu Akasaki, Dr. Hiroshi Amano, and Dr. Shuji Nakamura at the award ceremony recently held in Sweden. Dr. Akasaki and Dr. Amano worked together to develop blue light-emitting diodes, now called LEDs. Working separately, Dr. Nakamura achieved similar research results at around the same time and succeeded in promoting its practical application. Since blue LED lamps consume less energy and generate less heat, I believe they will continue to be applied in various fields of society. I am proud of the accomplishments of the three physicists and I would like to express my deep respect to them.
There were devastating natural disasters as well. In August, torrential rains hit the city of Hiroshima, and landslides triggered by the rain took 74 lives. We recently visited the affected areas, and the mere thought of being in the dark as trees were downed and large rocks came falling down with the mud was so terrifying. The fear that the people must have felt then is beyond my imagination. My heart goes out to those who had to endure this terror.
In September, the eruption of Mount Ontake left 63 people dead or still unaccounted for. It pains my heart to think that they were hikers enjoying the autumn foliage.
In November, an earthquake registering a lower 6 on the Japanese seismic intensity scale struck northern Nagano Prefecture. Fortunately, thanks to the routine drills carried out by the local residents and the cooperation of the firefighters, there were no deaths. Buildings were severely damaged, and I am deeply concerned about the hardships the people face as winter falls upon them. Still, I am glad there were no deaths in this earthquake.
Another issue that constantly weighs on my mind, although it is not of the sort that makes headlines, is the deaths of people in snow-related accidents in areas of heavy snowfall. Last winter, the number of snow-related deaths across Japan came to 95. This is greater than the death tolls from the heavy rains in Hiroshima or the eruption of Mount Ontake. I feel that, with advancing age, I am more prone to tripping and falling myself, so I am always worried about elderly people removing snow from the roof. It is my sincere hope that steps will be taken to give due care to elderly people engaging in rooftop chores so that the elderly can live safely even in snowy areas.
With regard to my family, Princess Kako, the younger daughter of Prince Akishino (His Majesty's younger son), will start studying at International Christian University. She made the decision after hearing all about the university from her older sister Princess Mako, so I trust she will enjoy her college life there.
It was a great joy to us that Prince Mikasa, my uncle, reached hakuju, his 99th birthday, in good health. Meanwhile, Prince Katsura (Prince Mikasa's son and His Majesty's cousin), sadly passed away in June, and I deeply sympathize with Prince and Princess Mikasa for the sense of loss that they must be feeling.
More than 3 million Japanese people lost their lives during World War II. To ensure that those people did not die in vain, I believe it is our duty as survivors, as well as our responsibility to future generations, to always continue to strive toward a better Japan. In pursuing its sound development, I ardently hope that Japan will be able to go forward in the world as a stable, peaceful, and sound nation, in mutual support not only with neighboring countries but with as many of the world's countries as possible.
Showa Tenno Jitsuroku, the annals of Emperor Showa, was compiled from numerous sources under the leadership of the Archives and Mausolea Department of the Imperial Household Agency, and I can only imagine the immensity of the hard work that went into its completion. I am deeply grateful for the efforts made by all those involved. I know that I will be going through the pages of the books from time to time, reading about the accomplishments of Emperor Showa. Doing so will serve as a reminder and help me cherish anew the memory of Emperor Showa, who lived through an era fraught with difficulties.
I have various memories with Emperor Showa, but in particular, I fondly recall the times when I was staying at the annex villa at Nasu in the summer and I would visit Emperor Showa and Empress Kojun at the Imperial Villa, or accompany Emperor Showa on his walks to observe some plants in their natural habitats. In the annals, there is an entry regarding the summer after my marriage that reads, "[Emperor Showa] rode in the same car with Empress Kojun and the Crown Princess [the current Empress], to Hiroyaji outside the estate of the villa, where together they observed the sagi-so, Pecteilis radiate, and other plants of the swamp."
At the time, I was away from Nasu, attending an event in another part of the country. I think that Emperor Showa invited Michiko, who had stayed on in Nasu to take care of the newborn Prince Hiro, to join Empress Kojun and himself on a stroll so that she would not feel lonely. Later, when the Empress and I accompanied Emperor Showa to Meguriya outside the estate of the villa, I think, Emperor Showa told the then Crown Princess, the current Empress, about the hitsuji-gusa Nymphaea tetragona, a wild white flower of the water lily genus. Because of these two precious memories, the sagi-so and hitsuji-gusa came to have a special meaning for the Empress ever since, and when we were blessed with a baby girl much later, on the day that we named her Sayako, we chose the hitsuji-gusa for our daughter's emblem. I fondly remember how happy Emperor Showa was to hear about this, saying, "Very good."
I feel that there are many things that I learned from Emperor Showa. Before my marriage, I would sometimes stay with Emperor Showa and Empress Kojun at the Imperial Villa in Hayama, and I learned many things from Emperor Showa on those occasions. I learnt to think about other people at all times and to act not because one was told to do so but to take responsibility in deciding one's own actions. These are important things that I learned from the words and actions of Emperor Showa.
Today His Majesty the Emperor celebrates His 81st birthday. During the past year His Majesty faced no serious health issues and was able to carry out His official duties in good health.
With regard to His official duties of state, this year His Majesty signed or affixed His official seal to a total of 1,042 documents submitted by the Cabinet. He attended many ceremonies and other official events, including the Imperial Investiture of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, the accreditation of 88 Ministers of State and other senior officials, the presentation of Letters of Credentials by 28 newly arrived foreign ambassadors, and the awards and decoration ceremonies for the Order of the Grand Cordon and the Order of Culture, and received in audience the recipients of the decorations. His Majesty attended a total of 17 awards ceremonies and commemorative events. At the Imperial Residence and the Imperial Palace, His Majesty met with many people, including the recipients of the Order of Culture and Persons of Cultural Merit, members of the Japan Academy, members of the Japan Art Academy, persons newly recognized for 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 the youth and senior Volunteers for Nikkei Communities, recipients of the Crown Prince Akihito Scholarship, established to commemorate Their Majesties' wedding, recipients of the "Symbols of Tomorrow" prize which recognizes young researchers, and personnel returning from international emergency aid missions. Their Majesties expressed Their appreciation to those individuals and offered them encouragement on a total of 26 occasions. His Majesty also heard 13 lectures from administrative vice-ministers of government ministries and the Director-General of the Foreign Policy Bureau of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He also received explanatory briefings on 45 occasions regarding His official visits and attendances. He also met with the offerers of first-crop rice for the Niinamesai ritual and members of the Palace voluntary workforce. These totaled 63 occasions and 7,958 persons.
In March this year His Majesty, together with Her Majesty the Empress, attended the Memorial Service to Commemorate the Third Anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake, which struck Japan on March 11, 2011. In July Their Majesties visited the town of Minami Sanriku, the city of Kesennuma, and other municipalities in Miyagi Prefecture, receiving briefings from the governor and other officials on the disaster recovery efforts. They also toured the temporary shopping centre of Minami Sanriku and the restored fish market of Kesennuma. On that occasion, Their Majesties also visited the National Sanatorium Tohoku Shinsei-en, a sanatorium for leprosy patients and former patients, in the city of Tome, where They offered flowers at the facility's memorial and conversed with the residents of the facility. With this visit, Their Majesties concluded Their visits of all 14 Hansen's disease sanatoriums throughout Japan, starting with Their visit in 1968 to the National Sanatorium Amami Wako-en in the city of Amami in Kagoshima Prefecture, and met with the patients in all those facilities. Their Majesties also attended a special exhibition featuring the activities of those working to restore historical and cultural materials damaged by the March 11 disaster and charity concerts to support recovery efforts.
In addition to the above, Their Majesties' trips within Japan took Them in March to the Ise Grand Shrine, where the Shikinen Sengu (rebuilding the shrine every 20 years) Ceremony took place last year. In May, They traveled to Niigata Prefecture to attend the National Arbor Day Festival. While there, Their Majesties visited the Ojiya Earthquake Museum Sonaekan in the city of Ojiya, which tells of the damage and recovery from the Niigata Chuetsu Earthquake of 2004. They also visited the Kuzumaki District Furusato Centre in the city of Mitsuke, where They listened to reports on the status of recovery efforts in the aftermath of the torrential rains that struck Niigata and Fukushima Prefectures in July 2004, and visited the Kariyatagawa Disaster Prevention Park to observe the status of recovery from the floods. In June, Their Majesties went to the town of Hayama in Kanagawa Prefecture, to attend the welcome reception of the summer program hosted by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, to provide research opportunities for pre- and post-doctorate researchers from major Western countries. Their Majesties also attended the opening ceremony and reception of the World Federation of Occupational Therapists Congress and the Japanese Association of Occupational Therapists, held in Yokohama, Kanagawa Prefecture, and viewed the exhibits. Their Majesties also visited Okinawa Prefecture on the 70th anniversary of the sinking of the evacuation ship Tsushima Maru, which was carrying more than 1,400 people, including some 800 schoolchildren, from Okinawa to Kagoshima, to pray for the repose of the souls of those who lost their lives. There They laid flowers and paid Their respects at Kozakura no To, the memorial to the victims, followed by a visit to the Tsushima Maru Memorial Museum, where They conversed with the victims' families and survivors. In 1997, when the Tsushima Maru was found at the bottom of the sea, His Majesty composed this poem: "Embracing tightly / The lives of the evacuee children / Down sank the ship. / Now it has been found again / In the depths of the sea." In October, Their Majesties went to Nagasaki Prefecture to attend the National Sports Festival. As next year marks the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, Their Majesties laid flowers at Nagasaki Peace Park and visited the Megumi no Oka nursing home for atomic bomb survivors. The Nagasaki visit was originally planned as a three-day trip, but as a large and powerful Typhoon # 19 (Typhoon Vongfong) was approaching, Their Majesties wished people to concentrate on preparing for the typhoon, so after attending the Opening Ceremony on the second day, They cancelled the rest of Their schedule and returned to Tokyo. In November, They visited Nara Prefecture to attend the National Convention for the Development of an Abundantly Productive Sea. Their Majesties also visited the city of Fukaya in Saitama Prefecture to observe the damage it suffered from heavy snow in February 2014 and the status of the recovery efforts. This was followed by a visit to the farmland of the Shimosato agricultural district in the town of Ogawa, which won the Emperor's Prize for its community-building through organic farming in the 2010 Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries Festival. In December Their Majesties visited the city of Hiroshima, Hiroshima Prefecture to observe the damage from the torrential rains in August and the recovery efforts undertaken since then. There They visited those impacted by the disaster and showed their appreciation to the people working to help them. The following day, Their Majesties offered flowers at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial (Cenotaph for the Atomic Bomb Victims) and visited Yano Orizuru-en, a nursing care home for atomic bomb survivors. With this visit to this relatively recently built care home, Their Majesties completed Their visits to all four nursing care homes for bomb survivors in Hiroshima Prefecture.
As for private trips, which Their Majesties began planning themselves last year, They visited in May this year the Watarase Basin, originally constructed to control flooding and pollution caused by mining, and the Ashio Copper Mine in Tochigi Prefecture. They also visited the Sano City Museum, which exhibits materials on Shozo Tanaka, the conservationist who tackled the problem of pollution from the Ashio Copper Mine. At the mine itself, They were pleased to observe the efforts made by volunteers and others to reforest the wooded hills harmed by mineral poisoning and excessive logging, and the successes they have had in restoring the environment, which exceeded Their expectations. In September, Their Majesties visited Aomori Prefecture, where they observed the Port of Hachinohe, which was damaged in the Great East Japan Earthquake, heard reports on the status of rebuilding efforts, and had a stroll along the Tanesashi Coast. The following day, They visited an apple orchard in the city of Kuroishi and the Apple Institute of the Aomori Prefectural Industrial Technology Center.
During the past year, Their Majesties made official and private trips to twenty-nine cities, five towns, and three villages in 14 prefectures, excluding visits to the Imperial Villas for rest and recuperation.
As part of His official duties, His Majesty made visits in and around Tokyo on 44 occasions, including the opening of the National Diet and the Memorial Ceremony for the War Dead, His customary attendance at the award ceremonies for the Japan Prize, the Japan Art Academy Award, and the Japan Academy Prize, and various other award ceremonies and commemorative events. In February, Their Majesties visited the island of Izu Oshima (the town of Oshima) to observe the landslide damage from Typhoon # 26 in October 2013 and the recovery efforts. Their Majesties met with victims of the disaster and expressed appreciation to those involved in recovery work.
With regard to Japan's relations with other countries, this year Their Majesties together welcomed as state guests to Japan His Excellency President Truong Tan Sang of Viet Nam and First Lady Mai Thi Hanh in March, His Excellency President Barack Obama of the United States in April, and Their Royal Highnesses King Willem-Alexander and Queen Máxima of the Netherlands in October. Their Majesties held welcoming ceremonies for these guests, received them in audience, hosted banquets for them at the Imperial Palace, and sent them off with words of farewell. Their Majesties also invited Their Royal Highnesses King Willem-Alexander and Queen Máxima to a luncheon at the Imperial Residence. His Majesty also met with numerous foreign guests on official visits to Japan. His Majesty welcomed His Royal Highness Crown Prince Salman of Saudi Arabia and His Highness General Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, each time receiving the guest in audience and hosting a luncheon. He also received in audience His Excellency President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud of Somalia, His Excellency President Abdulla Yameen of the Maldives, His Excellency President Horacio Cartes of Paraguay, and His Excellency President Manny Mori of Micronesia. Together with Her Majesty the Empress, His Majesty received in audience His Excellency President Didier Burkhalter and the First Lady of Switzerland, His Excellency President Christopher Loeak and the First Lady of the Marshall Islands, His Excellency President Toomas Hendrik Ilves and the First Lady of Estonia, and His Excellency President Giorgi Margvelashvili and the First Lady of Georgia. Following an audience with His Excellency President Tommy Remengesau of Palau, Their Majesties hosted a luncheon. Furthermore, His Majesty received as state guests the Honorable Prime Minister Tony Abbott of Australia, the Honorable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina of Bangladesh, and the Honorable Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India, in addition to meeting with the Honorable President Jesus Posada of the Spanish Congress of Deputies, the Honorable President Mohamed Cheikh Biadillah of the Moroccan House of Councillors, and the Honorable Asylbek Jeenbekov, Speaker of the Kyrgyz Parliament. As guests on working visits, Their Majesties received His Excellency Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Mrs. Erdoğan of Turkey and His Excellency Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Mrs. Netanyahu of Israel. Additionally, at the Imperial Residence, Their Majesties invited His Royal Highness Hereditary Grand Duke Guillaume and Grand Duchess Stephanie of Luxembourg; His Excellency Manmohan Singh, the Prime Minister of India when Their Majesties visited that nation last year, who was in Japan to receive the Grand Cordon of the Order of the Paulownia Flowers; and Their Royal Highnesses King Abdullah II, Prince Ali, and Prince Ghazi of Jordan to luncheons, as well as having tea with Her Highness Sheikha Mozah of Qatar and Her Royal Highness Princess Maria Laura of Belgium.
In December this year, Her Royal Highness Queen Fabiola of Belgium passed away, and with the approval of the Cabinet, Her Majesty the Empress attended the state funeral. Their Majesties received the sad news in a direct telephone call from His Royal Highness King Philippe of Belgium. It was His Majesty's decision that, given Their Majesties' long friendship with His Royal Highness the late King Baudouin of Belgium and Her Royal Highness Queen Fabiola, it would be most appropriate for the Empress to attend the funeral.
As for ties with the diplomatic corps in Tokyo, during the past year His Majesty invited to tea newly appointed foreign ambassadors representing 18 countries, along with their spouses; held luncheons for ambassadors representing 24 countries who had been in Japan for three years or longer, together with their spouses; and gave farewell audiences to ambassadors from 19 countries and their spouses upon completion of their assignments in Japan. His Majesty also met with newly appointed Japanese ambassadors and their spouses departing for overseas posts in 44 countries and invited to tea Japanese ambassadors and their spouses returning to Japan from 50 countries, and listened to their accounts of their experiences abroad.
Together with Her Majesty the Empress, this year His Majesty took trips to the Hayama Imperial Villa and the Nasu Imperial Villa. During Their stay at the Nasu Imperial Villa, in addition to visiting local farmers as They do each year, Their Majesties invited farmers whom They had visited in the past to the Imperial Villa grounds, conversing with them at the Omeitei pavilion, to mark His Majesty's 80th birthday. Their Majesties had planned to spend late August in Karuizawa, Nagano Prefecture, and Kusatsu, Gunma Prefecture, as They do each year, but They canceled all Their plans following the damage caused by torrential rains in the city of Hiroshima, Hiroshima Prefecture.
In December this year, when His Imperial Highness Prince Takahito of Mikasa, Emperor Showa's younger brother and His Majesty's uncle, celebrated his 99th birthday, His Majesty, together with Her Majesty, visited the Prince's residence. On June 8, His Imperial Highness Prince Yoshihito of Katsura passed away. Their Majesties paid visits to his home and the Akasaka East Residence, as well as to the Toshimagaoka Cemetery to pay Their respects.
As for the ritual ceremonies of the Imperial Palace, His Majesty attended 22 annual ceremonies, and other officials handled ceremonial duties in His place for the Tenchosai and the Saitansai. In this year's Niinamesai Shinkaden-no-gi ceremony, His Majesty took part in the Evening Ritual for a shorter length of time, attending the ceremony half way through the ritual, just as He did last year. For the Morning Ritual, however, in consideration of His Majesty's health, it was decided to ask His Majesty to remain in the Imperial Residence for the duration of the ceremony.
As He does every year, His Majesty himself hand-sowed seed-rice, transplanted it, and hand-reaped the grain in the paddy field of the Biological Laboratory of the Imperial Household. Together with His children and grandchildren, He also sowed upland rice and millet and later harvested the grain. Some of the millet was added to the hand-reaped crop of rice used as an offering in the Niinamesai ritual. His Majesty also made an offering of rice plants with roots still attached, which He had planted, to the Ise Shrine on the occasion of the Kannamesai ritual.
His Majesty continues his icthyological research, working at the Biological Laboratory of the Imperial Household together with a professor from Kyoto University and the laboratory staff members. This year His Majesty attended three meetings on fish classification held at the National Museum of Nature and Science.
This year, to commemorate His Majesty's 80th birthday, many special events were held. In the spring and autumn, special tours allowing the public inside the Imperial Palace and special walks along the Inui Avenue in the Palace Grounds took place for the first time, and the regular visits to the Palace Grounds were held on Saturdays as well as the usual weekdays. The autumn period for the public tours of the Kyoto Imperial Palace was also extended to seven days. In July, Her Majesty organized a performance of traditional Japanese performing arts for His Majesty. The Sannomaru Shozokan (Museum of the Imperial Collections) held a special exhibit titled "His Majesty's 1953 Trip to 14 Western Nations: New Emotions and Encounters," and a special exhibition in honour of Their Majesties both having reached the age of 80, titled "Their Majesties at 80: Extending Their Ties of Trust," was held at a department store in Tokyo. Other events included celebratory concerts by the Imperial Guard Band and the Metropolitan Police Band, a musical concert hosted by the members of the Imperial Household Agency and Imperial Guard, and a celebratory tea held by members of the Imperial Household Agency.
On His Majesty turning eighty, some consideration is beginning to be made to slightly reduce the workload for both Their Majesties. This year They made Their annual visits to care facilities in connection with Children's Day and Respect for the Aged Day, which will be passed on from next year to Their Imperial Highnesses Crown Prince Naruhito and Crown Princess Masako, and Their Imperial Highnesses Prince and Princess Akishino. Some changes are also being made to His Majesty's duties in consideration of His age, such as the itinerary of the spring and autumn garden parties.
On December 23, His Majesty's birthday, He will receive felicitations from members of 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. During the day, His Majesty will appear on the balcony of the Chowa-den three times to receive congratulations from the public. In the afternoon, He will receive felicitations from the Prime Minister, the chair of the House of Councillors, and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. After this 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, member of the Cabinet, and representatives of various fields. This will be followed by tea with members of the diplomatic corps, tea with former senior officials of the Imperial Household Agency, and tea with lecturers and other guests. In the evening, He will receive birthday greetings from Her Imperial Highness Princess Aiko and other young Princes 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|
|10:40 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|