Date:February 15, 2001
At the Residence
At the dawning of the new century, as I look back on the 20th century, it was indeed a century in which many events took place. While it is tremendously difficult to encapsulate in a nutshell the period of the 20th century where great global changes took place, it should first be pointed out that during the course of the century, the world experienced two great wars. I have often heard from Their Majesties, my parents, about the suffering of war and the preciousness of peace, and although these great wars took place before I was even born, I believe that we should resolve wholeheartedly to see to it that such wars will never be repeated again in the future.
The post-war period saw the advent of the long Cold War, with the world divided along an East-West axis. With the end of the Cold War in 1989, it was thought that a new order would be born, but instead new types of ethnic and regional conflicts are occurring. It saddens me that so many people sacrificed their lives through wars and conflicts during the twentieth century. However, on the other hand, the 20th century also witnessed the expansion of democracy, and many regions in the world that had once been colonies attained their independence. It is worth pointing out that in the year I was born, 1960, a number of African countries achieved independence. In addition, highly industrialized countries have developed economically, resulting in the achievement of material wealth. What is more, with the remarkable development in transport and communications technologies, the movement of people has been further facilitated, with goods and services crossing national borders and in so doing it can well be said that the world has become a surprisingly smaller place. However, industrial development on the other hand, particularly in recent years, has caused serious environmental problems.
The 20th century was also one in which science and technology progressed. In relation to wars and conflicts, this involved humankind inventing nuclear weapons capable of exterminating fellow human beings in an instant. I believe that an important issue we face in the new century is the safe use of the atom, an endeavor that calls for the collective wisdom of humankind, including scientists. Furthermore, through the progression of gene research, it has been possible to map out the entire human genome, and I hear that gene modification technology is now being utilized at the forefront of medical science. This, too, is an issue that is greatly related to life ethics, and another task that calls for the combined wisdom of humankind in the future.
The progress of computerization was also one of the important phenomena of the latter half of the 20th century. I recall that in my childhood, the word "computer" evinced images of enormous machines that certainly could not be used by one person like me, but now through incredible miniaturization, the use of computers has become a natural and everyday occurrence. I believe that the instantaneous transmission of huge amounts of data to far-flung areas anywhere, made possible by the Internet, is a truly epoch-making development. I too now use a personal computer for writing documents, but I recall with some nostalgia - and I may be giving away my age here - using a mimeograph machine in my childhood to create documents, taking the trouble of writing out all the letters and sometimes getting ink-blackened fingers during the printing process. In those days there were of course Japanese typewriters, but the use of these machines was very complex and I thought I would be unable to use one. There were also English typewriters and I used to think with a child's innocence why, when it was so easy to type cleanly in English, it was so difficult to do the same in Japanese. Now, through the use of word processors and personal computers the typing of documents has become incredibly easy, which I believe represents a great change.
Of the important events that I recall, one of my earliest memories is the Tokyo Summer Olympic Games, when I was four years old. I went to watch various events such as gymnastics and swimming, and I vaguely recall having the impression that this was a truly great sports event, with a large gathering of a variety of athletes from many countries around the world. I remember the Expo' 70 in Osaka as the time when I first realized Japan's place in the world, and that the world was comprised of many countries. At almost the same time, a human being set foot on the moon for the first time. I was fond of astronomy at the time and I remember watching on television with deep interest, the first landing on the moon and the appearance of the moon's surface. The news of the return of Okinawa to Japan is also something that remains clear in my memory. In addition, I remember the end of the Vietnam War. As I have already mentioned, I had been told of the Second World War by my parents, but of my childhood memories, I recall being surprised that wars were still happening in the era in which I was living. I saw the Pulitzer Prize winning photographs of the Vietnam War taken by Kyoichi Sawada, entitled "Flee to Safety," which made an unforgettable impression on me regarding the scourges of war. Later on, I believe that the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War were also great events. Shortly before the end of the Cold War I made a visit to Berlin and saw for myself the Berlin Wall, but at that time it never occurred to me to think that the Wall which divided East and West Berlin would crumble within the space of a few years.
From what I remember, the years of my childhood were also the time during which the post-war recovery of Japan progressed. Economic growth was achieved during the time of the Tokyo Summer Olympics and Expo' 70 in Osaka, and even during the subsequent oil shocks, but eventually the era of the bubble economy appeared, and after the collapse of the bubble economy, I am left with the impression that we have entered, economically and socially, a very difficult period.
As I look back over the previous year, there have been many events that have occurred. First of all, natural disasters have included the volcanic eruptions of Mt. Usu and Miyakejima. I greatly regret that in these regions so many people are still being forced to live as refugees, and I sincerely hope that circumstances will improve quickly. Earthquakes, too, have been occurring for a prolonged period on Niijima and Kozushima, and the western region of Tottori Prefecture was also shaken by an earthquake. The torrential rains in the Tokai region also wrought tremendous damage. On a global scale, there have recently been strong earthquakes in both El Salvador and India, and the fact that these disasters claimed the lives of very many people is still fresh in my memory. I was also greatly saddened by the cable car accident that occurred in Austria, and the accident involving the training ship of Uwajima Fisheries High School off the coast of Hawaii. There has also been news for celebration, notably the outstanding performance of the Japanese national teams in both the Sydney Summer Olympic Games and the Sydney Paralympic Games last year, and the awarding of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry to Professor Emeritus Hideki Shirakawa.
Empress Kojun passed away in June last year, and that made me feel sad and lonely, as from my early years, I used to visit her almost every week at the Fukiage Imperial Residence with Their Majesties.
What is important for the Imperial Family is that together with the people of Japan, they share both joys and sorrows as one. This is a thing that is carried unwavering from generation to generation. We have just passed through the era of dramatic changes that was the 20th century and now arrived at the new era of the 21st century. I believe it is important that in this new era, taking careful heed of the needs of the times, and assessing the fundamental character of the situations, we should provide a basis for spiritual confidence. While regarding highly the traditions of the Imperial Family, in order to perform such roles, it is important for us to precisely ascertain what the people of Japan hope for and expect from the Imperial Family. I believe it will be important for us to maintain broad contact with the people of Japan in a variety of aspects. I would like to pay heed to this point when performing my duties in the future. In addition, the changing times also might call for a change in the content of official duties. I therefore believe it is also necessary to consider official duties that are in step with a particular era. I believe, also, that the constant and underlying basis for all this is to hope for the happiness of the people of Japan, just like Their Majesties have always been doing.
Since we were married, Masako has done a wonderful job in her role as Crown Princess, and I am truly grateful for that. I believe that married life represents an important partnership. It is important to take mutual pleasure in times of joy and to worry and think together in times of difficulty. It is also thanks to Masako that I have come to learn of things I had not previously noticed, and had my views of and interest in different things broadened since our marriage. I believe it is also important that in married life a couple is able to share some common interest. While sharing our interests and concerns together, I would like to further deepen our bonds as a couple in the future.
I was greatly concerned at the health problems of Her Majesty last year, and I am greatly relieved that she has recovered. There are many official duties that only Their Majesties can perform, and it is a fact that there are many such duties for which no other member of the Imperial Family, including myself and the Crown Princess, can take their place. However, I believe it is also important to carefully ensure that Their Majesties' schedule does not become overburdened. What is called for should be the consideration that Their Majesties perform their official duties without being overburdened by an overly heavy schedule.
Concerning overseas visits, I believe that these constitute a large component of what is expected of the Imperial Family by the public, and when the opportunity arises I am prepared at any time to make myself useful in this regard. However, as you may all probably be aware, such matters are of a character that cannot be decided independently by ourselves.
As for my role in the Imperial Family, as I have already mentioned, while always considering what I am able to do as Crown Prince, I would like to carry out my duties as Crown Prince in a way that is of help to His Majesty.
Responses to the aging of society and to the decreasing age of juvenile crime are now very important issues. I believe that the government is also considering various measures for the aging society, and I hope that this will lead to a society in which it is easy to live, where the elderly can live meaningful lives. In addition, I am also distressed by juvenile crime and it is especially a great concern to me that violent crimes are increasing in the younger strata of society. While it is important that children are taught to uphold the rules of society in the home and at school, it is also important to create an environment where each child is able to really feel that they are accepted by society and where they can have dreams for the future. From my personal experience, I believe it is an important lesson for children that through contact with nature and living things from a young age, they learn about the value of life. It is to be hoped that a society can be realized in which the elderly can lead bright and happy lives and young people can enjoy the pursuit of their hopes.
The recent progress in telecommunications technology is a most remarkable phenomenon. While I think it is truly wonderful to be able to exchange great volumes of information in an instant via a machine, at the same time I hope that people will continue to value the person-to-person contacts which they have cultivated up to now. In addition, I think that the development of means of communications is making people busier. It may probably be a case of people being chased about by communications wherever they may be, leaving them with no time to rest. In this regard, I think due consideration is necessary as we welcome the information technology age.
I have always thought it is of great importance to perform duties that are in step with a particular era. While I think it is important to continue to carry out those duties which have been handed down from generation to generation, as I mentioned previously, the times we live in are changing and I feel that various new trends are appearing with these changing times. It is difficult for me to say specifically what image I have in my mind at this time, but I believe that as times change, and in particular in the era we are now entering, if I could find a role required by the current era, I would hope that I could actively carry it out.