Date:December 5, 2002
At the Residence
When it was pointed out that ten years are passing, I thought, "Yes indeed, ten years have really gone by?" I had the feeling that it was nine years, but it was pointed out that it is almost ten years. People say that "ten years is an epoch," or that "ten years goes by like the passing of a day." When I come to think about it, with the opening of the new year, on 19 January it will indeed be ten years since the convening of the Imperial Household Council which resulted in my engagement and I feel deeply nostalgic when I think about it.
After that time and after entering the Imperial Family, I have tried to do what was expected of me to the best of my ability, but I believe that there were many occasions when my abilities were really not up to the mark. However, I always received the warm support of His Imperial Highness the Crown Prince, taking his advice and receiving his encouragement. I am truly thankful that I have been able to spend my time to now in such a happy way.
When I look back to the time when I first met His Imperial Highness the Crown Prince, it was the autumn of 1986. Their Majesties the Emperor and Empress, who were Crown Prince and Princess at that time, were holding a reception in this very room for the Infanta Elena of Spain and I had been invited to the reception with my parents. This was my first occasion to meet His Imperial Highness the Crown Prince and subsequently a variety of events took place, and I never even in my dreams thought that one day I would enter the Imperial Family. It is for this reason that, years later, when I say that the marriage became a real issue, I was greatly surprised and I think that was a really big decision. In addition, there were many things that I did not understand, and in the midst of insecurity, I was able to learn many things from His Imperial Highness the Crown Prince and be so warmly watched over by Their Majesties the Emperor and Empress. I am really grateful for all that. Then last year, with the birth of our child, I have been filled with heartfelt gratitude for the truly warm felicitations that were extended by many people in Japan at that time.
Also, in the process leading to our marriage, His Imperial Highness Prince Takamado treated me very kindly, and after our marriage also he was always a truly caring presence, and like an elder brother, being five years older than His Imperial Highness the Crown Prince, he would always warmly encourage us and provide advice. I am truly saddened and pained by his sudden passing.
I cannot even begin to imagine how His Imperial Highness Prince Takamado's passing has crushed the spirits of Her Imperial Highness Princess Hisako and her three children, and also His Imperial Highness Prince Takamado's parents, Their Imperial Highnesses Prince and Princess Mikasa. I remain eternally grateful to His Imperial Highness Prince Takamado for the warm encouragement he provided me in life, and I pray that he may rest in peace.
With regard to His Imperial Highness Prince Takamado, I have one memory that has remained with me. On the day of our marriage, we were driven in a parade, and after leaving the Imperial Palace grounds, we drove along Shinjuku-dori Avenue, and passed the Gakushuin Primary School, and entered the Akasaka Imperial Palace through the Samegahashi-mon Gate. At that time, we were being taken to the temporary Togu Palace, which is on the opposite side of the Akasaka Imperial Palace grounds to this residence, and as we passed the Akasaka Imperial Gardens, where garden parties are always held, completely unexpectedly Their Imperial Highnesses Prince and Princess Takamado, with their daughter, Her Imperial Highness Princess Tsuguko, who was still only a young elementary school student, came down to the pond there and welcomed us with a warm and kind gesture. It was an encounter that was entirely unanticipated, and the memory of the joy of it is something that has remained with me.
As I look back on the course of this year, I became a parent for the first time and I felt that the first few months of the year passed by very slowly. Until that time our official duties had taken precedence and with duties and their preparation and other things in that regard, the pace of our lives as a couple had been very routine. However, with a child, your life becomes centered upon that child and time-keeping becomes irregular. I imagine all parents will have had this experience, but becoming a parent for the first time kept me busy day after day, and it was in that sense that I felt that in the first half of the year the time had somehow passed by slower than before. Subsequently, Aiko began to grow and become more active in her movements. She also came to have a wealth of expressions and started to move around, and would demonstrate a variety of responses. It was in this way that the time began to pass more quickly and in the blink of an eye, or so it seemed, her first birthday arrived only the other day, and in this way she has safely welcomed her first birthday.
Thankfully, Aiko is very healthy, and has a placid character very much like that of His Imperial Highness the Crown Prince, and?how should I put it?is very relaxed and calm, and I feel very lucky in that regard. I also feel truly blessed and thankful that I have a child who enjoys such robust health, when there are many children who do not enjoy this blessing. In addition, I receive the consideration and help of my staff in caring for our child and I am most thankful that when, due to official duties and other times, I am personally unable to care for Aiko, there are staff members who will care for her in my stead.
In the future, I believe that through our child I will be able to see many new things in the world, and as these new experiences mount one by one, and I think of the things that we are able to do, I would like to endeavor to be of some help to His Imperial Highness the Crown Prince, and while watching over the growth of our child, go on to do the things that I am able to do.
So many different things happened this year. In the first half of the year, there was the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City and after that there was the 2002 FIFA World Cup in June. It was the first time that the World Cup was co-sponsored by two nations, Japan and the Republic of Korea. I am sure it must have required great efforts on the part of those who were involved in the preparations, and it was indeed a great success. Also, as a fortunate background of that success, Their Imperial Highness Prince Takamado and Princess Takamado made the first-ever visit to the Republic of Korea by a member of the Imperial Family. I am sure that this was a visit that required great attention in various ways and he made it such a successful visit. He also worked tremendously hard to ensure the success of the World Cup and my memories of that event were that it was truly successful.
Also, this autumn there were two Japanese persons selected to receive Nobel Prize Awards, Professor Masatoshi Koshiba for physics, and Mr. Koichi Tanaka for chemistry, and I have heard that this has been dubbed a "double winner," which seems to be a popular expression these days. As this is the first time that there are two Nobel Prize winners from Japan in one year, I think that this was a bit of happy news.
On the other hand, domestically there was the issue of those who were abducted by North Korea, which came out in the open. There were several of those abducted who were able to return to Japan and a number who were reported to have died. When I think of the feelings of the victims as well as of their families, my heart is filled with pain and I can hardly imagine how they must feel.
Also, around the world, there are situations which cause great concern, such as the continued tension in the Middle East and the terrorist incidents that continue to occur in various places.
Last year, I could not hold a press conference on my birthday as I had just given birth, so this is a topic regarding an event that occurred more than a year ago. It seems to me that after the September 11 terrorist attacks, the framework of the world, or the conditions of the world and the direction in which it seems to be heading, has changed significantly. This is my honest impression.
Even before that, there were issues in various regions of the world, such as regional conflict and civil wars, resulting from the collapse of the Cold War structure. Now, in addition to that, terrorism has cast an invisible threat over ordinary people. In the background to this are issues such as poverty and the existence of various inequalities, and I feel that we must join hands with the people of the world and share our wisdom in order to respond to this situation.
In light of such events, much assistance has been extended toward the reconstruction of Afghanistan and I can only pray that that country, which has been torn by civil war for such a long time can be reconstructed in a good manner.
As for that which has affected me personally, as I answered in the first question, I can think of the growth of my child, and in particular, the sudden passing of His Imperial Highness Prince Takamado, which truly left a great impact on me. Indeed, His Imperial Highness Prince Takamado was very generous to me and I cannot overcome my grief.
For the first time this year, Her Majesty the Empress traveled by herself to the Swiss Confederation and attended a conference in the field of children's literature. While there she gave a wonderful speech that touched the hearts of many people and I think that her visit produced truly fine results and was altogether a wonderful visit. This was a result of the many years of efforts that Her Majesty has devoted to this cause, and as I watch her activities, I feel a truly deep respect for her.
I am most thankful for the comments made by Her Majesty in the responses to questions on the occasion of her birthday regarding, "keeping her own personality," and I am still searching for my own personality and what it should be. I will need some more time to consider what this should be. While doing so, I would also like to think about what my own life's work should be.
First, at the current point in time, since I have become a mother, what is important to me at the moment is to watch over the growth of my child and provide a helping hand in many ways to ensure that our child grows up to be a happy person. At the same time, in my contact with the people of Japan during the course of my official duties, while trying to sense what the people expect of me, I believe that I must make various efforts.
As for a theme for my life's work, or should I say challenges that I have vaguely in my mind, while there are a few of these, I would still like to have the opportunity to consult with a number of people around me about how to approach them and how it would be best to deepen my own understanding of them.
If I were to mention one thing, it would be something that I have mentioned in previous press conferences, that of caring for children who find themselves in difficult circumstances. This is a problem both at home and abroad and there are many children in such circumstances, and many ways in which they find themselves in such very difficult situations. I would like to offer my heart to such children and keep considering what help I can offer.
In this context, it was in November this year that I was able to pay a visit for the first time to a children's welfare facility while paying another visit to a cultural festival of children's welfare facilities, which I had heard is organized every few years. At this facility there were children from a wide variety of backgrounds, and I am sure many with deep psychological scars, and I felt overjoyed to have been able to spend a happy time and make contact with them by playing games with them. I truly hope that these children will all be able to return to their families. My hope is that they will be brought up in a happy environment, even at the facility. I always truly hope that as many children as possible will be able to enjoy happiness.
That is how it seems to me.
I do not know whether or not "placid" is the right expression. Perhaps I should say she is a happy baby. I was especially surprised that even when she was only two or three months old, she seemed to already have a sense of humor. For example, and this is something that I have already spoken of, but I am so grateful to His Imperial Highness the Crown Prince for his help in raising our child, which has been such a great support. For example, once, when His Imperial Highness the Crown Prince dropped a handkerchief, I looked surprised, and the baby seemed to smile and laugh. That was something that happened when she was only two or three months old, and I remember thinking how surprised I was that such a small child could have a sense of humor. Perhaps she is not so easily bothered. For example, at the Nasu station and on other times when we have gone out, there are always so many people who come to greet us. It seems that she knows that everybody is so happy to see her and she seems to make such an effort to wave her hand. Indeed, we never taught her to do this, but rather, she could somehow feel the happiness emanating from everyone gathered there and in a very honest way she came to express her own feelings. That is what I mean by "placid," although I am not sure that that is the right word. Still, after spending my days with her, that is the feeling that I have.
That said, even though she may be this way now as a small child, there is a small possibility that she will remain just that way as she grows up. When one has many difficult aspects when they are young, sometimes it turns out that one grows into an adult of placid personality. Right now, I do not really think we can make a decision that because of this or that factor, her personality will be this or that way. In fact, I think this is an interesting fact.