Date:November 29, 1999
At the Residence
My heart was overjoyed this year at the celebrations marking the Tenth Anniversary of the Accession to the Throne by His Majesty The Emperor of Japan and to see both of Their Majesties The Emperor and Empress celebrating the fortieth anniversary of their marriage in good health. Both Their Majesties always have at heart the happiness of the people as they go about the many official duties that fill their busy days, and it is my heartfelt hope that they will continue to take good care of themselves and enjoy a healthy life.
Quite a lot has happened this year, too. It seems that even the weather changes greatly from year to year and I feel that recently it is becoming harder and harder to predict. This year started off with blizzards in the north of Japan, and in the summer the rains continued for a long time in the west. In particular, there was great damage, including the loss of precious lives stemming from the torrential rains which continued after the rainy season throughout the summer and from the disaster wreaked by typhoons in the autumn. I feel that there were so many people who met with severe hardships in regions all around Japan this year.
Overseas, in the Republic of Turkey, in Greece, in Taiwan and elsewhere there was great damage from major earthquakes, and I am truly grieved at this, remembering the disaster which ensued from the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake. I was heartened that disaster relief teams also sped from Japan to the disaster areas, where they provided various forms of assistance. The people in the regions afflicted have received generous assistance from the international community and it is my heartfelt wish that they can safely live through the coming cold winter as they strive toward recovery.
This year was also the tenth year since the collapse of the Berlin Wall in Germany. At the time the Wall fell, there was great hope that the Cold War between the East and the West would come to an end, that a bright future would ensue and that a peaceful world could be built. I am, however, deeply saddened at the reality that followed: regional conflicts and ethnic conflicts have been breaking out frequently around the world and the lives of so many people, especially children, have been lost. For example, I hear that many of the ongoing conflicts in Africa show no signs of abating. In the nations of the former Yugoslavia as well, this year again we have had to face the sad reality of the situation in Kosovo.
In Asia too, great sacrifices were made as regards independence in East Timor and there are concerns over the situation in the Republic of Chechnya in the Russian Federation. I feel, therefore, that much more wisdom is needed in order to build peace in the world.
In such a world, it was extremely sad that King Hussein of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan passed away this February. King Hussein made tremendous efforts to achieve peace in the Middle East and I remember with feelings of deep gratitude how warmly he welcomed us when His Highness The Crown Prince and I visited the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan five years ago. I was greatly grieved when King Hussein passed away after his long battle with illness.
Furthermore, in the Republic of Kyrgyz in Central Asia, Japanese technicians engaged in local development assistance were kidnapped together with local people. Although I listened carefully to reports that the hostages were well, given the complexities of the situation there and the rapidly approaching winter, I was concerned for the health and well-being of the hostages. I was relieved when they were all released in good spirits. Still, my heart went out to them when I thought of the difficulties they endured for more than two months as hostages.
Many things happened in Japan as well. The extremely serious situation which ensued following the accident at the nuclear power plant in Tokaimura, and the unfortunate death of the captain of the domestic passenger airplane hijacked this summer were some of the many things that grieved my heart.
Other things which left their impression on me this year included the hurried preparations being made for our rapidly approaching aged society, problems related to unemployment and re-employment of people stemming from corporate restructuring, various problems occurring amidst reform of our society, the difficulty faced by graduating university students, in particular female students, in finding jobs and environmental issues including waste disposal, as well as the year 2000 computer issue.
Moreover, just the other day there was a sad incident involving a young girl, and there is much in the situation facing children nowadays which saddens me. In particular, I hear that recently there has been a dramatic increase of child abuse and there are various issues involving the youth of society, such as the increasing abuse of drugs. I hope from my heart that many people can combine their wisdom and work hand in hand to find a good solution so that society as a whole can protect our children.
We stand at the threshold of the 21st century and I hope from my heart that in the new century a more peaceful world will be built and that a brighter future will open up for the children of both Japan and the rest of the world.
I am very grateful that since our marriage I have been assigned various official duties and that His Highness the Crown Prince has always extended his warm encouragement to me, and that with the support of all those around me, I have been able to fulfill my official duties thus far in my own way.
It is rather difficult to come up with a good response to your question as to what I pay most attention to in fulfilling my official duties. Still, I would say that when attending events I try as much as possible to understand how such events came to take place, the outlook for the future and their significance. Furthermore, in performing my official duties I have from time to time opportunities to speak to various people, and on such occasions, when appropriate, I try to speak to them in an amicable atmosphere. I also strive to put myself in the place of others and understand their feelings when listening to them.
Moreover, I hope to learn something, if even just a little, from each of the people I speak with. Although there are various restrictions, I would be happy if I could speak with as many people as possible in a natural manner.
Regarding my official duties, if there is anything which I can do as a member of the Imperial Family, I hope to put my mind to it whenever necessary.
In addition, I hope to always open my heart to those who are in difficult situations, and to children who face various difficulties.
There are many places in the world where people cannot enjoy such blessed lives as we do here in Japan and I pray for the future happiness of the people and the children of those regions.
It is true that in the lives that His Highness The Crown Prince and myself lead there is no clear boundary between our official work and private life and some aspects of our daily lives and official duties are extremely closely linked. That is why I feel that it is truly important to strive to make relaxation a part of our daily lives.
When we can find a few days of free time amidst our schedule of official duties we are fortunate to be able to spend it at the Imperial Villa. I feel grateful that from there we can go to the mountains, or pass some time comfortably in the midst of natural surroundings.
Furthermore, in our daily lives, I am truly happy that I am able to talk to His Highness the Crown Prince on any matter at all and discuss any subject. After all, I think that the very act of dialogue, often and in many ways, puts us at ease.
In addition, I feel also at ease when I spend time together with our dogs, which is for me an important time. For example, after finishing my schedule for the day, or on days when I have official duties in the evening, I find some time between those duties to take the dogs for a walk in the Palace grounds, or to ride my bicycle around with them. That truly relaxes me.
When we have a little bit more time, His Highness The Crown Prince and I play tennis and at other times I practice my flute playing, although with my recent busy autumn schedule I have had to miss my flute lessons. Reading a book at night at the end of the day is another way for me to relax.
After attending the Winter National Sports Festival in Hokkaido this year, we were able to take a day off and we were fortunate enough to spend the time enjoying some cross-country skiing. This was my first experience of cross-country skiing, but it was so nice to ski amongst the trees while bathing in the sunlight as it glimmered through the branches, and we were able to pass very pleasurable hours.
In summer, we had the opportunity to visit and were lucky enough to stay at Hachimantai, as you have mentioned, and at Shiga Kogen as well where among other activities we walked along the beautiful heights and learned much about plants and nature from the people who guided us. Those were very enjoyable visits.
Through sharing these kinds of experience with His Highness The Crown Prince I feel that I am gaining an ever widening perspective on the world, which makes me very happy indeed.
Furthermore, as I just mentioned earlier, in our everyday lives, it fills me with great joy that His Highness The Crown Prince, to the extent that he can, is kind enough to think and talk many things over with me.
What is more, for example, through listening to music together, experiencing nature through flora and fauna, enjoying astronomical observations or occasionally painting pictures, or even when we spend time together with our dogs, I am very grateful that His Highness The Crown Prince is so generous as to share so much enjoyment together with me.
Although it is indeed reassuring to me that His Highness The Crown Prince is in extremely good physical condition, I do hope that he will continue to maintain his good health. Furthermore, I intend to try to be of help in any way that I can.
Additional Question: You mentioned this earlier, but recently there have been more and more occasions when you have made visits alone and made statements by yourself. Please tell me your thoughts about that and whether you feel very positive about continuing to do so.
Answer This April I attended on invitation the fiftieth anniversary meeting of the Women's lunch of The Tokyo Chamber of Commerce, consisting of women entrepreneurs who have been active in business for a long time. In June I also had the opportunity to attend the 36th Meeting of Women's Association for Rehabilitation Aid Members held this year to mark the 50th Anniversary of the Community-Based Treatment of Offenders System in Japan. I am very grateful to have had those opportunities. I am very glad if I can be of any use by meeting with and speaking to various people who are working diligently in society. Although it is not for me to say that I want to make a speech here or there, if I am asked to do so, I will try to give serious consideration to each and every occasion.
Press Conference by Her Imperial Highness The Crown Princess 29 November 1999