Date:December 7, 2000
At the Residence
As I look back over the past year I feel that it has been a year in which quite a lot happened, both here in Japan and abroad. Various natural disasters occurred in Japan, including the volcanic eruptions of Mt. Usu in Hokkaido and Miyakejima. It grieves me greatly when I think of the great many residents of these regions who are still forced to live in shelters far away from the comfort of their homes, and I can only hope that the volcanic activity will cease as soon as possible so that the people can resume their normal lives. There were other natural disasters as well, including the damage caused by the torrential rain in the Tokai Region and the earthquake whose epicenter was in the western part of Tottori Prefecture, and I was saddened by these and other heart-rending accidents and incidents.
I was especially saddened by the passing of Empress Kojun in June of this year and I recall with deep fondness the occasions when we visited her at her residence in the Fukiage Palace in the years since our marriage.
There was good news as well, including the awarding of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry to Professor Emeritus Hideki Shirakawa of the University of Tsukuba and the outstanding performance of Japanese athletes at the Sydney Summer Olympic Games and the Sydney Paralympic Games. His Highness the Crown Prince and I watched both the Olympic Games and the Paralympic Games on television and I believe indeed that these inspirational games were worthy of being the final Olympics of this century. The hosting of the G8 Summit in Okinawa this summer was also a memorable event.
Looking overseas, my heart grieves at the situation in the Middle East and the conflicts that rage in various countries and regions around the globe. I hope that peace will come to these countries and regions as soon as possible. Recently, there has been heightened concern for the global environment and it seems to me that serious consideration is being given around the world to determining how we can protect our Earth and how we can best pass it on to the next generation. Also, one often hears talk about the "IT Revolution," and both in Japan and abroad various steps are being taken toward innovating information and telecommunications technologies using computers and other means.
In this way as I look back over this year it strikes me that really a great deal happens every year. Furthermore, as this is the last year of the twentieth century, when I think back about what kind of century it has been I am impressed by how many important things have happened and how much society has changed during this period. When I think about the Imperial Family in this context, I recall that since long ago the Imperial Family has safeguarded the traditions that have been handed down from ancient times, and at the same time I am constantly thinking about what is truly important for Japan and the world in the future. In doing so I strive to ascertain the expectations that society has for the Imperial Family in these times.
Since so much of society has become globalized, the Imperial Family may play an important role in bringing people together around the world, particularly so by paying attention to those who are facing difficulties in all realms of society. As Their Majesties the Emperor and Empress constantly wish deeply in their hearts for the happiness of the people, I too strive to maintain that spirit as I fulfill my role alongside His Imperial Highness the Crown Prince.
I know that there were great expectations among the people, and I too feel that what happened at the end of last year was unfortunate. At the same time, honestly speaking, it is a fact that I was disturbed by the overheated coverage in the mass media from the very start. His Imperial Highness the Crown Prince was deeply attentive to my needs and helped me through that experience. I am also deeply grateful from my heart to Their Majesties the Emperor and the Empress for the unwavering warm support and encouragement that they have extended me, as they always have. I was fortunate to have excellent medical attention from the doctors and I am deeply grateful for their efforts in helping me to recover steadily. In addition, I will never forget the warm words of encouragement in the many letters I received from the people. Deep inside I could sense that I truly am supported by the goodwill of so many, and I would like to take this occasion to express my deep gratitude for the warm feelings of all the people.
It was indeed regrettable that, due to my poor physical condition this past summer, I was unable to attend the funeral ceremonies for Empress Kojun. And although I was ill only for a short time then, it seems that some misunderstanding has arisen due to changes that were made to my schedule. However, my health has recovered and I am doing fine now. I appreciate all the concern that was expressed for me.
In September Fukushima Prefecture extended a kind invitation to us to spend a few days in Urabandai following the official duties of The National Tree-Care Festival, and I truly enjoyed that time. In addition, I was grateful to have had the opportunity to spend a few days this autumn at the Nasu Imperial Villa and the Imperial farm. As I have said on previous occasions, I find it delightful to be able to spend time in wide open natural spaces, and I am very thankful indeed that this year I could again stroll through natural surroundings, view beautiful scenery and observe the flora together with His Imperial Highness the Crown Prince in Nasu and Urabandai.
Her Majesty the Empress had a very busy schedule of official duties this year too, as always. Almost immediately after returning from her Official Visits abroad in the month of June, Empress Kojun passed away and despite being overcome with deep grief, Her Majesty the Empress spared no efforts to pay full attention to each and every detail in the preparation for the various ceremonies and thereby ensure that she could bid a final farewell to Empress Kojun smoothly. I can only imagine how tiring that must have been for her. I was truly relieved when she recently successfully completed the treatment for her eye. It must have been quite trying indeed for her to undergo physical examinations and surgery while continuing to carry out her official duties. I sincerely hope from my heart that Her Majesty the Empress will make a full recovery. Naturally, my supreme concern is for the good health of Their Majesties the Emperor and Empress.
As to the question about the official duties I consider that the nature of those official duties carried out by Their Majesties the Emperor and Empress is such that they cannot easily be reduced, and in many instances cannot be performed by anyone else. With this in mind, although I am humbled when I wonder of what use I really am, under the guidance of His Imperial Highness the Crown Prince, I wish to try to be of some small help, in accordance with the wishes of Their Majesties the Emperor and Empress.
Although I did mention this earlier, as is evident from the phrase "IT Revolution," the recent developments in information and telecommunications technology are truly remarkable. I look forward to the coming age in which anybody in the world will be able to use the Internet and other measures in a truly good way. Recently, I too, little by little, have been using e-mail and I am impressed by the fact that I can send information instantaneously and communicate with any place in the world. Still, I must admit that many things happened when I first started using e-mail, such as the sudden disappearance of text that I had written with great care, and on occasion the inexplicable reappearance at the most useless times of text that I had lost.
Although the Internet has become so widespread and communication means have become quite convenient and it is now very easy to access a great deal of information, I do hope from my heart that people will continue to value direct contact and exchanges among individuals. Furthermore, I hope that people will continue to enjoy reading books, which is so important for children, to help them grow up into individuals rich in humanistic spirit. I also think that it is important to have contact with nature. Recently while attending a conference I had the opportunity to learn how effective it could be for children with growing minds and for those undergoing psychological rehabilitation to spend time with animals in nature. Indeed, I believe that there is much to be gained through contact with animals and nature. His Imperial Highness the Crown Prince and I spend our days with our two dogs and we find great peace of mind and joy from being with them. As I mentioned earlier, once in a while when I have the opportunity to get in touch with nature and step out into the natural environment, I am keenly reminded of just how much we can learn from nature.
There was quite a lot, but I do remember that from January on I received many letters of encouragement from people who had undergone similar experiences.
With the arrival of the twentieth century, the pace of industrialization accelerated greatly and our lives have now become quite convenient. However, as a result of the economic activities of humanity, nature has wound up being depleted and a great burden has been placed on the natural environment. It is important to remember that we have but one Earth, and it is important that humanity be able to continue to survive on our planet. Furthermore, since humans are not the only living beings on the Earth, and since there are indeed many other fauna and flora, and especially in light of the concern for the many species threatened with extinction, I do believe that it is important for us to protect the environment.
Every day I strive to make sure that I do not waste water. In addition to water I also try not to waste food, or anything else. I also make a point of separating flammable from inflammable garbage.