Date:February 15, 1999
At the Residence
Looking back over the past year, I feel that indeed many things occurred. Of the major events which took place since my last birthday, the first that comes to mind is the Nagano Winter Paralympic Games. Since I served as the Honorary Patron, I was able to visit the area twice and to watch a number of the events. The Japanese team performed impressively at the Winter Paralympic Games as well, and many people were deeply moved to see the unlimited potential of human beings demonstrated in the achievements of athletes with disabilities. I believe that these Games inspired hopes and dreams in many of our people, not only those with disabilities. There were many other such events as well, such as the 1998 World Cup in France last year, and the activities of former American Senator John Glenn and astronaut Chiaki Mukai, who voyaged aboard the Space Shuttle.
However, at home, Japan suffered a serious recession, and abroad, Mr. Yutaka Akino, a member of the United Nations Mission of Observers in Tajikstan, was killed. Moreover, the heavy rains of last summer resulted in great damage here, and in other countries there was also tremendous damage from earthquakes, tsunamis and flooding.
There was also the recent passing of H. M. King Hussein Bin Talal of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. The Crown Princess and I traveled to Jordan, where we paid our respects to the great deeds of King Hussein, who strove so hard to achieve peace in the Middle East despite the many difficulties he faced throughout his 47 year reign. Looking back over the past one year in this way, it seems that although there were some bright points, we also experienced many sad events.
As for your question regarding my reaching the age in which one no longer vacillates, I am sure you know that this saying comes from The Analects of Confucius, where it is written, "At forty one no longer vacillates." I suppose that this means that when a person reaches the age of forty, that person should be able to make decisions without wavering. It is difficult to imagine myself reaching that stage in just one short year, but I do want to devote myself diligently to my research and I hope to make the most of each and every day.
As His Majesty the Emperor has himself often said, in accordance with the stipulations about the Emperor in the Japanese Constitution, and mindful of the history of the many Emperors of the past who constantly had at heart the happiness of the people, I believe the Emperor has been making strenuous efforts for the nation and the people in the hope of bringing them happiness. In particular, I have seen for myself on various occasions how Their Majesties have shown that they wish to be in their hearts always with the people, and how they desire to be so both in good times and in bad times. Indeed, Their Majesties are deeply saddened when the people suffer from such natural disasters as the eruption of Mt. Unzen, the earthquake and tsunami which struck Okushiri Island off Hokkaido, and the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake, and they have visited the afflicted areas to be with those suffering from disaster and to give them encouragement in such times of difficulty.
Furthermore, on their visits abroad as well as in their meetings with the great number of foreign guests in Japan, they make great efforts to cultivate friendship and goodwill with those countries and to promote mutual understanding. Moreover, on many occasions when Their Majesties greet guests from abroad, State Guests, Official Guests, or those on official working visits, I am invited together with them. There I always notice how they welcome everyone equally, with utmost sincerity and hospitality, no matter what country they come from, and I am confident that these attitudes are important. Emulating these attitudes of His Majesty, I too hope to fulfill my duties as Crown Prince, and hope in some way to be of assistance to His Majesty. I always hope to take a positive approach to the duties which I am given, and to give consideration each and every day to what extent I can accomplish my appointed tasks.
I also wish to endeavor to understand the various issues occurring domestically as well as on the international scene, and to cultivate interest in and attention to those issues. I think that among the many current issues, those pertaining to the education of our children and to the environment are especially important, and I try to deepen my understanding of such matters. I also intend to have exchanges with people of my own generation as well. Through such exchanges I hope to gain a better understanding of how people of my generation perceive the Imperial Family and what they expect of its members.
I can think of so many episodes which have strengthened our ties as a couple, and I am not really sure which one to speak of, but I can tell you that both of us try to stay in communication with each other. One could say that we are the sort of couple who work together and act together, so that we have fortunately quite a lot of time to talk together, which both of us value highly. I think it is also extremely important to have shared interests. We discuss many things together, we enjoy sports together, and we take mountain climbing trips together when we have the chance. I can also think of many other things, such as observing the stars at night and walking our dogs every day, and I think that such shared interests do contribute to strengthening our ties as a married couple.
I fully recognize the degree to which the people are interested in this, and the importance of the matter.
Regarding my recent activities, I would first of all like to tell you about my research. I am continuing my research on issues in maritime transport in medieval Japan, and recently I have shifted the focus of my research from the Seto Inland Sea to the Yodogawa River. Now I am extremely interested in water transport on the Yodogawa River and in its relation to the economic activities of temples, shrines and court nobles that had estates along the river. To mention a few of my other recent interests, I continue to play the viola, and from time to time I play as part of an ensemble. There are also times when I enjoy playing together with the Crown Princess. We also enjoy making astronomical observations together, and we also enjoy things such as painting together. Regarding our astronomical observations, last year there were the Leonids and Geminids meteor showers in December, and although there were not so many we did see some shooting stars. More recently, the huge telescope called Subaru was built by the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan at the top of Mt. Mauna Kea on the island of Hawaii. I am extremely interested in the observations which Subaru will make possible. Furthermore, I have heard that on 23 February the planets of Jupiter and Venus will reach their point of closest proximity and I am really looking forward to observing that.
As for sports, I enjoy tennis, jogging and mountain climbing as well as others, and recently I sometimes take the dogs for a walk. Ordinarily it is difficult to go outside voluntarily during the cold of winter, but if you have dogs, you need to walk them. Thus I think that taking the dogs for a daily walk in the morning is also good for my own health. Recently it seems that all kinds of walking have become popular, and I believe that indeed walking is extremely important for maintaining one's health. When I do sometimes jog with my dogs, I lead the dogs with their leashes attached to my waist. There are some mornings when the dogs by ill chance happen to see a cat or other animal and I am pulled along forcefully. Another thing which I am currently interested in is cross-country skiing. When I visited Nikko, I went cross-country skiing in the area around Senjogahara. I find it extremely appealing to get away from the slopes, and go deep into the countryside and enjoy my surroundings.
Regarding my recent visit to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, I would like first of all to mention that it was precisely four years ago, in January 1995, that I last visited Jordan. However, because of the aftermath of the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake, the planned three-day itinerary was reduced to one day, after which I had to return to Japan. Despite such a change in my itinerary, His Late Majesty King Hussein Bin Talal, Her Majesty the Queen, and Their Royal Highnesses former Crown Prince El Hassan and the former Crown Princess extended us their truly heartwarming hospitality. We traveled to Jordan this time in the hope that through this visit we could thank them in some way for the great kindness they extended us at that time, and in order to express our heartfelt respect for the great deeds of His Late Majesty King Hussein.
As far as I myself am concerned, since the time I was a child, thanks to the thoughtfulness of my parents, Their Majesties the Emperor and Empress, I have had the opportunity to meet many foreign guests, and that experience is now extremely useful to me when I meet foreign people. Although one often hears the expression "Imperial Family diplomacy," I believe that visits by members of the Imperial Family could be better described as goodwill visits which deepen friendship and goodwill, rather than as a means of diplomacy, and I think that the term "Imperial Family diplomacy" might not really apply to visits by members of the Imperial Family. When we think of the fact that mutual understanding between countries is actually based upon mutual understanding between individual persons, I believe that the visits to foreign countries which we make could be one of the major pillars of our activities in the future.