Date:March 3, 2010
At the Residence
I am extremely happy for the opportunity to visit the two countries by the invitation of the governments of the Republic of Ghana and the Republic of Kenya. I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude to the two governments for the invitations. This will be my first visit to the African continent for almost 20 years. My last visit to Africa was to the Kingdom of Morocco in 1991. As was pointed out in the question, however, this will be my first visit to the so-called Sub-Saharan Africa.
In relation to Africa, in 1960, the year I was born, my parents, Their Majesties The Emperor and Empress, visited Ethiopia. I recall hearing from Their Majesties stories about Ethiopia and other countries of Africa. Additionally, in 1964, during the Tokyo Olympic Games, Abebe Bikila of Ethiopia won the gold medal in the marathon. Four years later at the Mexico Olympic Games, another Ethiopian, Mamo Wolde, won the marathon, leaving me with the childhood impression that Africa was a land of strong marathon runners.
Later, at the Expo held in Osaka in 1970, I visited several of the African pavilions such as those of Tanzania, Ghana, and Nigeria. This might have been my first encounter with Africa.
In 1981, I met the first president of Tanzania, President Julius Nyerere who came to Japan as a State Guest. The following year, I met President Daniel arap Moi of Kenya who also came to Japan as a State Guest. I also met President Jerry Rawlings of Ghana who visited Japan in 1993 and other people who were in positions of leadership in African countries. Additionally, I have talked to people who are knowledgeable about Africa and since my childhood I have seen many pictures of the wild animals of Africa and of things related to Africa. These experiences have formed my image of Africa. However, there is no substitute for seeing something with your own eyes, as a Japanese proverb says. I hope to thoroughly see Ghana and Kenya with my own eyes, meet the people who live there, and make this a meaningful visit.
On another note, I have just recently celebrated my 50th birthday and among the countries of Africa, there are many countries that won their independence in 1960, the year I was born. The Republic of Madagascar, Somalia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, formerly Zaire, the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and the Republic of Senegal are among these. The two countries I will visit this time, Ghana and Kenya, won their independence in 1957 and 1963, respectively. Though not exactly the same year, but around the 1960s, they share the common ground that they have grown as countries in the approximately half a century since that time. I have always felt an affinity toward the countries of Africa, many of which were born in the same year as I was or around that time.
In the past 50 years or so, some African countries have achieved economic growth due to rich underground resources. However, I am also aware that there are yet many others that continue to face issues such as poverty, infectious diseases, and conflicts. Japan's relationship with the African continent has deepened in almost 20 years since then, with the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) having been held four times starting with the first conference in 1993. This time I will only visit two countries, but thanks to the support by the governments of both countries, I have an opportunity to visit not only their capitals, but suburban areas as well. Through this visit I hope to deepen my understanding of the societies, histories, and cultures of Ghana and Kenya, as well as further my knowledge of the various issues that the African continent faces. I also hope that this visit will contribute just a little to reinforcing friendly relations, not only between Japan and the two countries Ghana and Kenya, but also with the whole of Africa.
Looking back on the relations between Japan and these two countries, as well as Japan and the whole of Africa, I understand that many people have in various ways contributed to their development and I hope that my visit this time will also become a stepping stone in strengthening these ties.
During my visit to Ghana I will visit the laboratory where Dr. Hideyo Noguchi carried out research over 80 years ago. I would like to take that opportunity to commemorate Dr. Noguchi by thinking about the contributions he tried to make to the field of medicine in Africa and in the world. In 2008 the first presentation ceremony of the Hideyo Noguchi Africa Prize, which was established in memory of Dr. Noguchi's achievements, was held with Their Majesties The Emperor and Empress in attendance. A symposium will be held in Ghana to commemorate this Prize. I will attend this symposium and hear from those who take part in resolving medical issues in Africa including Ghana and Kenya and I hope to support their activities. I recall fondly how I read about Dr. Noguchi's achievements when I was in elementary school and in the sixth grade I visited the Hideyo Noguchi Memorial Hall which stands on the lakefront of Inawashiroko in Fukushima Prefecture.
Furthermore, I am scheduled to meet people involved in international cooperation, including members of the Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers (JOCV) and Japanese nationals who live in Ghana and Kenya. They are deeply involved in bringing our countries closer through economic and other activities. I also hope to meet people in Ghana and Kenya who have deep ties with Japan, such as those who used to study in Japan. Regarding JOCV members especially, I have always tried to make time to meet them directly before they were dispatched to various countries and I look forward to seeing the actual activities of each member during this visit.
I believe that the ties established through various activities by Japanese nationals in Ghana and Kenya as well as those established by the people of Ghana and Kenya who are interested in and involved with Japan are the foundation that makes relations between our countries stronger. I would be very happy if my visit provides them with encouragement as they continue with their respective activities in the future.
It is deeply meaningful to me that Kenya was the country His Majesty The Emperor visited around the time of his 50th birthday. I have heard much about his visit and Their Majesties have also shown me photo albums from their visit to the country. I look forward to visiting the Nairobi National Museum which Their Majesties visited during their visit to Kenya. I also look forward to experiencing the magnificent nature of Africa during my tour of the rural areas of Kenya.
Additionally, I hope that this visit will provide an opportunity for me to think more deeply about water issues, in which I have long been involved. As I stated at the beginning of this press conference, this is my first visit to Sub-Saharan Africa, but as Honorary President of the United Nations Secretary-General's Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation, I have had great interest in the various issues concerning water in African countries. During my visit to the two countries, I will also visit water related places such as dam and irrigation facilities. Issues concerning water cover a broad range of fields. Since, however, I am going to visit only Ghana and Kenya this time in Africa, I may not be able to say much on the matter, but I hear that these facilities are considered examples of success in water issues in both countries. Therefore I hope to deepen my understanding of water issues as I hear the stories of those concerned.
Masako is very grateful for the invitations issued by the governments of Ghana and Kenya and both of us regret that she will not accompany me. Masako is indeed interested in Africa and she is actively attending symposiums and other events related to Africa at the United Nations University and any other places. When it comes to a visit, however, it is necessary to take into consideration the travel distance, the length of the visit, and the various events during the visit. After consulting with the doctors, we decided that I would go alone. Regarding future overseas visits by Masako, as I stated at the press conference on the occasion of my birthday, I would like to consult with the people around us as to what opportunities there may be to go on a visit and discuss the matter with Masako, based on the opinion of the doctors.
As Japan and the world changes, I believe that overseas visits such as for the purpose of fostering international goodwill will remain an important official duty. In March of last year, I attended the 5th World Water Forum in Istanbul and gave a keynote address. I would like to consider attending international conferences such as this when it is decided that it is appropriate for me to do so. Currently, the world is changing at a great speed. Given this, I would always like to consider seriously what I can do at the time while hoping for the happiness of the people of Japan and of the world.
As for overseas visits by Masako, my answer is as I just stated earlier.
Recently, I attended a follow-up conference on the International Year of Sanitation held at the United Nations University and I believe I was able to deepen my understanding of the situation of the world's sanitation issues and especially on the various issues that Africa faces. I am first of all aware that Africa is a region which lags behind other regions in matters such as securing safe water and access to sanitation facilities. At the conference, I reconfirmed my awareness that the entire international community must take action to resolve these issues. As I just stated, I think it would be difficult to understand the all issues in Africa through my visit this time, because it is limited to two countries, Ghana and Kenya. However, I do hope to further my understanding on what kind of action the international community should take, through talks with people from Ghana and Kenya who are handling such issues as well as Japanese nationals who are conducting various activities there. Additionally, I will attend the commemorative symposium for the Hideyo Noguchi Africa Prize and I hope to deepen my understanding regarding medical issues, which are closely related to sanitation issues, by hearing from various people who have been involved in medical issues in Africa.
I believe Masako is interested in the entirety of the various issues Africa has. It may be difficult to pinpoint which issues in particular she is interested in, but she seems to be greatly interested in a wide range of issues in Africa including poverty, education and environmental issues.