Date:July 11, ,2008
At the Residence
Before I answer your question, I would like to express my heartfelt sorrow for those who lost their lives in the recent Iwate-Miyagi Nairiku Earthquake and to express my sympathy to the bereaved families and to those who suffered damage from this disaster. It is my wish that the recovery and reconstruction will be completed as soon as possible.
I am extremely glad to have an opportunity to visit Spain at the invitation of His Majesty King Juan Carlos of Spain and the Government of Spain on the occasion of Expo Zaragoza 2008. I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude to His Majesty King Juan Carlos of Spain and to the Government of Spain for this invitation.
I am looking forward to seeing Their Majesties the King and Queen as well as Their Royal Highnesses the Crown Prince and Princess during this visit. The last time I had a chance to meet Their Majesties was in 2004, when I went to Spain to attend the wedding ceremony of His Royal Highness Crown Prince Felipe. I last saw Their Royal Highnesses the Crown Prince and Princess in June 2005, when they visited Japan to attend Expo 2005 Aichi, Japan and attended dinner at the Crown Prince's Palace. During my visit this time I have been invited for dinner by Their Majesties the King and Queen as well as by Their Royal Highnesses the Crown Prince and Princess and I am grateful from my heart for this warm welcome. Their Majesties The Emperor and Empress of Japan have maintained deep exchanges with the Royal Family of Spain for many years. I am grateful for the benefits I gain from their efforts and intend to deepen the friendship with the Royal Family of Spain.
This will be my fifth visit to Spain. My first visit to Spain took place when I was in my second year at high school, which was more than 30 years ago. During that first visit, I was invited to stay at the retreat of then-reigning His Majesty King Baudouin of the Belgians near Granada in the south of Spain. I stayed there for several days and spent an extremely enjoyable time with His Majesty King Baudouin and Her Majesty Queen Fabiola, who came from Spain, as well as with their relatives. During that visit I also received a tour of the Alhambra Palace by Her Majesty Queen Fabiola. As I look again at the photographs from back then in preparation for the upcoming trip, I keep recalling these memories fondly. I still clearly remember the scenes of the Court of the Water Channel, inspired by an image of paradise, and I can still hear the sounds of the water fountains in the Court of the Lions. It was probably at that time that I first came to know the strong feelings toward water in Islamic culture, nurtured in extremely dry climates.
After that I visited Spain in 1985 while studying in the United Kingdom, in 1992 to attend Seville Expo 1992 and the Barcelona Olympics, and then again in 2004 to attend the wedding of His Royal Highness Crown Prince Felipe. On each of those visits I felt the rich history and diverse culture, as well as the warmth and cheerfulness of the Spanish people and the dynamic development of the economy and society they supported. As one looks back on the history of Spain we see the influence of Celtic culture, the influence of Roman culture as epitomized by the Aqueduct of Segovia, and the brilliant architectural heritage combining both Christian and Islamic influences as symbolized in the aforementioned Alhambra Palace and the Mezquita of Cordoba. Moreover, I heard that paella, a typical Spanish dish, in fact originates from a Muslim dish. In terms of economic and social aspects, the gross domestic product (GDP) of Spain is now ranked eighth in the world, making it an important economy in global terms. Its major industries span a broad spectrum including processed foods, chemicals, automobiles and tourism. In addition, Spain is focusing efforts on addressing environmental issues. In particular, concerning wind power generation, which has been attracting attention as a promising renewable energy, Spain currently has the third largest output behind only Germany and the United States. Indeed, I hear that Spain's advanced technologies are now being supplied elsewhere in the world.
I will visit various locations on this trip and I am looking forward to meeting many people and to experiencing the local history and culture, as well as to seeing for myself the new Spain that is developing.
Expo Zaragoza 2008 is held under the theme of "Water and Sustainable Development," inheriting the new concept of international expositions presented three years ago at Expo 2005 Aichi, Japan, which was held under the theme of "Nature's Wisdom." Japan is participating in Expo Zaragoza 2008 through the Japan Pavilion organized under the theme of "Harmony with Water -- Wisdom and Skills," which will introduce the lifestyle and culture of Japanese people based on a long tradition of cherishing water. I will visit several pavilions including the Japan Pavilion and the Spain Pavilion, and I look forward to seeing what kind of interesting messages are expressed in each pavilion concerning issues of water, which lie at the root of all kinds of challenges concerning the future of humanity and our planet.
In addition to the exhibits and events organized by the participating countries at the Expo, there will be the Water Agora, a symposium at which discussion will take place on the theme of water. I am very glad that I will have an opportunity to speak at this symposium on "Japan Day," 21 July. In my address I will focus on the theme of "Humans and Water," on which I spoke at the First Asia-Pacific Water Summit held in December 2007. In particular, I will talk about the history of how Japanese people have protected their lives from the threat of water while at the same time devising innovative ways of making use of water. I believe there is still much that we can learn from the wisdom and innovation of our ancestors. Their experiences, nurtured in different regions, will surely be useful and precious for humankind in its efforts to achieve sustainable development across national borders. That is what I intend to convey to my audience in the speech.
As the Honorary President of the United Nations Secretary-General's Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation, upon this visit to Spain I intend to continue my efforts to further deepen my understanding of water and sanitation issues in countries around the world. I have already had opportunities to visit a number of facilities and locations related to water and water management, and I hope that Japan's wisdom and technologies will be of use to people across the globe. Furthermore, in my capacity as Honorary President, I will continue to find out what I can do to help resolve water and sanitation issues around the world.
Finally, I would like to express my sincere hope that my visit to Spain will contribute to furthering the mutual understanding and friendly relations between Spain and Japan.
Princess Masako also appreciated it from her heart that she was invited by His Majesty King Juan Carlos of Spain and the Government of Spain. Not only Princess Masako but I, too, find it regrettable that she is not able to visit the country. I continue to view overseas visits as precious opportunities to enhance mutual understanding and friendship between Japan and other countries. My wishes remain the same, that some day the two of us will be able to visit the country together. At the same time, Princess Masako is still undergoing medical treatment and plans for her overseas visits need to be considered with caution, in terms of travel distances, lengths of the visits, events scheduled during the stays, and other matters. For the upcoming visit, based on the comprehensive assessment and following consultation with her doctors, I have decided to visit the country alone. I must reiterate that we greatly regret that we are not able to respond to the courtesy of the invitation by His Majesty King Juan Carlos of Spain and the good wishes of the people of the country. I would nevertheless appreciate it if these circumstances met with understanding.
As for the question regarding the prospect of Princess Masako's return to official duties, she has been resuming one by one those activities she is capable of performing. In this way, I believe, she will gradually return to official duties. I would very much appreciate your understanding that Princess Masako is striving very hard with the help of the people around her. I would further appreciate it if you would continue to watch over her warmly with a long-range view.
Water is essential for the survival of human beings. However, the present situations surrounding water are far from giving cause for optimism. As I have mentioned in some past press conferences, we must first recognize the serious situations of about 1.1 billion people, or one-sixth of the total world population, who have no access to safe water, and the approximately 2.6 billion people, or two-fifths of the whole population, who lack access to basic sanitary facilities. Based on this recognition, we must identify what we are able to do and what we have to do. Moreover, I think we need to duly face the reality that water issues are becoming more and more serious, along with climate change and a rapid increase of the global population, as droughts and water disasters occur frequently across the world. As is already known, this year marks the International Year of Sanitation. It is earnestly hoped that we will be able to progress further in our efforts on water and sanitation issues, and with our campaigns to increase awareness of these issues.
In this light I find great significance in Expo Zaragoza 2008, which is serving as a showcase of expertise and technologies of various countries and regions under the theme of "Water and Sustainable Development," inheriting the new concept of international expositions presented at Expo 2005 Aichi, Japan. I sincerely hope that the latest exposition will provide people around the world with opportunities to review, in a fresh light, their involvement with water
As I have just mentioned, we had dinner with Their Royal Highnesses the Crown Prince and Princess at our residence when they came to observe Expo 2005 Aichi, Japan. The couple, who had just been married in May the previous year, looked happy as they shared with us their impressions of the Japanese and Spanish pavilions they had toured together. It was an enjoyable time for us, too, as we discussed many topics with Their Royal Highnesses the Crown Prince and Princess.