Date:March 10, 2006
At the Residence
It is a great pleasure for me to be able to visit Mexico in responce to an invitation by Mr. Vicente Fox Quesada, the President of the United Mexican States, to attend the Fourth World Water Forum to be held in Mexico City. I visited Mexico in 1982 and 1992, and this will be my third visit to the country.
I believe the first time I had the opportunity to come in contact with Mexico was when I visited the Mexican pavilion at the Japan World Exposition, Osaka, held in 1970. I think I had had keen interest in the exhibition concerning Mexico's history and culture, for Their Majesties The Emperor and Empress had told me about its history and culture beforehand. At the pavilion, on display were the famous colossal stone head from the Olmec civilization, which flourished from around 1250 B.C. to around the time of the transition from B.C. to A.D., as well as an exhibition about the Mayan and Teotihuacan ruins. I remember that as a child I was interested in the fact that the history of Mexico was a history of stone culture. Furthermore, Mexican music was being performed at the entrance of the pavilion, and I was impressed by its cheerful character.
In my past two visits to Mexico, its culture, history and social diversity, as well as the cheerful personality and vitality of its people left a strong impression on me.
Moreover, I saw for myself the bond between Japan and Mexico through, notably, the warm welcome I received from many Japanese Mexicans and seeing the mural depicting the 26 martyrs of Nagasaki, Japan, which was found in the cathedral of Cuernavaca, a resort district outside of Mexico City. I think it is wonderful that Ms. Yuriko Kuronuma, a Japanese violinist whom I have met on several occasions, has been working for many years to teach violin to the children in Mexico. I again feel the bond between Japan and Mexico from such efforts. Overall, I sensed on various occasions the strong interest and expectation of the Mexican people towards Japan.
In addition, I tried a number of Mexican dishes during my previous visits to Mexico, and I was struck by how corn was used in many of the dishes including tacos. They were all very delicious. I think the culture of any country is well represented in its food. I felt once again that Mexico has a culture of corn.
Although the duration of my visit this time is limited, I intend to meet as many people as possible and deepen our mutual understanding, as well as further deepen my understanding of Mexico. Furthermore, since it is because I am invited to the World Water Forum that I will be visiting Mexico, I would also like to take this opportunity to deepen my understanding of various water-related issues that Mexico is facing and tackling. At the same time, I plan on learning a lot about the Mayan civilization through visits to the sites in which I have long had interest.
Next, I will talk about the World Water Forum. The 21st century is also dubbed the "century of water." In particular, various water-related issues are becoming more serious around the globe, such as water shortage due to population growth and changes in land use, floods and water pollution. I believe water-related issues account for an extremely high percentage of all environmental issues. At the Third World Water Forum held in and around Kyoto City in 2003 where I served as the Honorary President, I was surprised at how water-related issues indeed covered many fields. Of everything I learned at this Forum, learning that there are approximately 1.1 billion people in the world who cannot drink safe water, that there are approximately 2.6 billion people who do not have access to good sanitary facilities, and that approximately every 10 to 20 seconds a child's life is lost to water-related diseases all made me think a lot about water, which tends to be considered as safe in Japan. I also learned that as developing countries lack sufficient water purification facilities, women and children are forced to get water from distant places, which is both physically demanding in terms of labor as well as time consuming, and as a result educational opportunities are being lost. Furthermore, with regard to transportation by water, which is my specialty, valuable opinions were expressed which were worth listening to, like how transportation by water plays a significant role in transporting relief supplies and injured people in times when roads and railroads cannot be used due to damage from earthquakes and other disasters, or how transportation by water may help alleviate traffic congestion. All in all, I am very happy that I was able to take part in this kind of a forum as part of my official duties.
Since then, issues such as "water supply and sanitation" have been raised as part of the Millennium Development Goals of the United Nations, and many people around the world have been working hard on this issue. However, it seems that it is quite difficult to realize improvement in this area. Furthermore, it is urgent to establish measures for damage incurred from the recent large tsunami in the Indian Ocean, large-scale hurricanes, or typhoons.
I hope the Fourth World Water Forum will mark an opportunity for moving the issues concerning water even a little step closer towards resolution. On my part, I intend to deepen my understanding concerning the various water-related issues facing Japan and the world, and would be happy if I could continue to be involved in some form with regard to this issue.
At the request from the organizers of the Fourth World Water Forum, I intend to talk on the theme of "Edo and Water Transport" at the Forum. Mexico City, along with Tokyo, is one of the largest cities in the world. With this in mind, I plan to talk about how important a role the development of transportation by water and waterworks played in the development of Edo (now Tokyo), while taking the examples of Minuma Tsusenbori (Minuma Canal) in Saitama City, Saitama Prefecture, which I recently visited, and Tamagawa Josui(Tama River Water Supply).
Finally, I hope that my visit to Mexico this time will be of some use for the promotion of the relationship of friendship and goodwill between Japan and Mexico.
In spite of receiving an invitation from the Government of Mexico for the two of us to visit the country, it is very regrettable that we are unable to return this courtesy. Princess Masako herself very much regrets that she is unable to make the visit. On the occasion of meeting the President, I, on behalf of Princess Masako, intend to convey her regards.
Princess Masako is, although gradually, making a steady recovery, and indeed recently she has become able to carry out some official duties as a step towards recovery. However, she has not yet recovered to the point where she can fulfill such official duties as overseas visits which require traveling over long distances and are carried out over an extended length of time. My solo visit to Mexico this time is a decision that was made upon consultations with the doctors.
Regarding this visit, I have been showing Princess Masako the photo album from my previous visits to Mexico and have been sharing my memories of those visits. In fact, I heard that Princess Masako has once visited Puerto Rico because one of her close friends when she was attending university in the United States was from Puerto Rico. Although it seems that Princess Masako has not been to any other Latin American regions, we sometimes talk about her recollections of her experiences with Latin America including Latin American culture.
I sincerely wish that the time will come soon when Princess Masako and I can go overseas together.
As regards the condition of Princess Masako, as I mentioned in my birthday press conference the other day, she has been making efforts towards recovery in accordance with the course of treatment prescribed by the doctors. She has been recovering steadily, with increased opportunities recently for private outings and physical activities which the doctors recommend as well as gradually taking on official duties little by little.
Ahead of Princess Aiko's entry into kindergarten, Princess Masako has been making various preparations. She is very happy and grateful for Princess Aiko's growth including her year-long experience at the National Children's Castle.
On the issue of the environment as pointed out by the doctors, we are very grateful for the various efforts and cooperation made by everyone concerned, including staff at the Crown Prince's Household. I ask for your continued and further understanding and cooperation.
Regarding official duties and our role as members of the Imperial Family, as I have been saying in my birthday press conference this year and the year before, I would like to find and strive to carry out official duties which can be done in the present time and what we, our generation, are best positioned to do, while cherishing the official duties we have undertaken to date.
I have told Princess Aiko that I will be traveling to Mexico and then to Canada for a total of approximately a week starting next week, but I presume she does not fully understand that I will be away for a week in countries across the ocean. However, I also think that in her own child's way she has a vague idea that I will be away from Japan in some other country for a total of a week. There are still a few more days until I leave, so during the next few days, I would like to talk to her a little bit about Mexico in a manner that is easy for a child to understand.