Looking back over the past year, I recall a host of events at home and abroad. Last year we experienced various cases of damage caused by heavy snowfalls and other kinds of natural disasters and accidents. This year we are having a warm winter with less snow, which nevertheless raises concerns about the impacts of global warming. I was surprised to learn lately that there is even a theory that the ice of the Arctic pole could be almost entirely melted away by 2040. I think we are facing a major issue of how to address the warming effect that is manifesting itself on a global scale.
There have been many sad incidents involving children in particular in the past year, such as bullying, suicide, and abuse. It is heartbreaking that children had to be involved in these events. I believe adults are responsible for creating a society in which children can grow safely and healthily.
In the international community, I feel we are facing numerous challenges, including the situation in Iraq, the issue of the Middle East Peace, and issues surrounding North Korea. I hope we will see progress toward a solution for each of these issues.
On a lighter note, I can recall the brilliant performance of figure skater Ms. Shizuka Arakawa at the Turin 2006 Olympic Games and the Japanese team's victory at the World Baseball Classic (WBC).
I wholeheartedly rejoiced at the birth of Prince Hisahito in September of last year. I see him from time to time at the Imperial Palace, at the residence of Prince and Princess Akishino, and when he is taken for walks by my brother and his wife in the grounds of the Akasaka Estate. It makes me happy to see him grow healthily.
It was quite a big event for Princess Masako and me when Princess Aiko entered kindergarten. Thanks to everyone involved she is cheerfully attending kindergarten and seems to enjoy her time as a kindergartener. I am indeed grateful to all of the teachers and to her friends and their families for being so good to her. I certainly want Princess Aiko to learn a lot through the various exchanges she will have with her friends in the future. In November of last year she successfully completed her Chakko-no-Gi ceremony*, and we are glad for her.
NoticeChakko-no-Gi is a ceremony passed down in the Imperial family from the Heian Period to celebrate the passage from infancy to childhood. Boys wear hakama, a kind of trousers, and girls wear mo, a kind of long skirt, for the first time.
Princess Masako, thanks to her recuperation in the Netherlands, etc., little by little seems to be heading in a better direction compared to her condition one year ago.
As for me, I have been actively involved in the activities which I must perform as Crown Prince. Amongst those, as I look back on that which left a particular impression on me during this past year I recall my visit to Mexico to attend the 4th World Water Forum. There is great interest around the world in global environmental issues such as global warming, and water is indeed an important topic. On that topic, the United Nations has passed a resolution on the International Decade for Action, "Water for Life," and global organizations such as the United Nations Secretary-General's Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation have been established. In addition to these, in Africa the efforts of the African Ministers' Council on Water have been enhanced and in the Asia-Pacific region the Asia-Pacific Water Forum was launched. These are but some of the examples of the enthusiastic activities that are being undertaken in different parts of the world. Asia is a region where there are particularly serious issues related to water, and in December of this year the 1st Asia-Pacific Water Summit will be held in Oita Prefecture. I have received an invitation and intend to attend this forum, and hope that I can in some way contribute to its success.
I would prefer to refrain from commenting on the issue of imperial succession. Furthermore, I will refrain from making any comment on the question of siblings for Princess Aiko.
Regarding Princess Masako, I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude for the understanding and encouragement that we have received from Their Majesties the Emperor and Empress and the warm sentiments and assistance that we have been given by many people of Japan.
Princess Masako is putting forth her utmost effort while keeping an eye on her condition. Accordingly, she is gradually expanding her range of activities and making steady progress. The doctors have pointed out, however, that she sometimes remains tired after certain activities, and I believe that how active she can be at any given time needs to be determined on a case-by-case basis. I think that what is important is that she further broadens her range of activities, whether official duties or otherwise, under the guidance of the doctors and that she gains confidence in her individual activities. I believe that if she is confident in her activities, the range of activities of an official nature that she conducts will expand naturally.
I ask for the understanding of the people of Japan and that they be patient with Princess Masako's situation.
Princess Aiko seems to be thoroughly enjoying life in kindergarten, and she appears to have grown a lot since she started there. She has become assimilated into group life at the kindergarten where there is a policy of treating each child equally. She is now looking forward to starting her last year of kindergarten in April. I spoke about our thoughts about her education at the press conference two years ago so I will not go into detail, but I would like to say that it is in tune with the kindergarten's educational principles and that we hope that just as the name "Aiko" contains the Japanese word for "love," Princess Aiko will grow up to be someone who loves others and is loved by others.
We are always mindful of Princess Aiko's health. She sometimes catches cold, but looking back to my own kindergarten days, I often caught cold and stayed home from school, so I think that catching colds will make her stronger in the future. I am glad she has been fortunate enough to grow up in good health and without any major illnesses or injuries.
In accordance with His Majesty the Emperor's feelings for Princess Aiko, I would like to continue to create opportunities for her to meet with Their Majesties the Emperor and Empress. Princess Aiko always eagerly looks forward to meeting with Their Majesties, and before visiting the Imperial Palace to see them, she prepares vegetables she has grown in our garden, flower baskets she made from flowers she has gathered, and something that they can enjoy together such as playing cards, the Japanese board game sugoroku, and origami.
As for my visits abroad, last year in March I attended the World Water Forum in Mexico, in August I took a rest in the Netherlands, and in September I traveled to the Kingdom of Tonga to attend the funeral of His Late Majesty King Taufa'ahau Tupou IV. Visits abroad are important opportunities to promote friendship and goodwill between Japan and foreign countries, and to attend international conferences. As such, I intend to continue to attach great importance to them. As for our visit to the Netherlands, we had been graciously invited by Her Majesty Queen Beatrix, and the period during which Princess Aiko's kindergarten was on summer holiday turned out to be convenient for those on the side of the Netherlands. Furthermore, Their Majesties the Emperor and Empress expressed their warm understanding, and moreover the doctors had expressed the view that a trip to the Netherlands would be beneficial to Princess Masako's health as well. All of this came together and we were able to realize the trip. Our visit to the Netherlands was a significant experience for us, as we were able to engage in exchanges with members of the Dutch Royal Family. Furthermore, I believe it was beneficial for Princess Masako's health and it provided Princess Aiko with a variety of new experiences. For all those reasons, it was a good trip. At the present in time, there are no plans for other overseas visits such as this one.
Fundamental to all official duties is the ideal role of the Imperial Family, which is to "assist His Majesty The Emperor, hope for the happiness of the people of Japan and try to share the joys and sorrows of the people." In addition, concerning how to go about achieving this, I have stated in the past that, while cherishing the official duties we have undertaken to date, if in the future new requests are made concerning matters that are of increasing importance due to changes at home and abroad, I would like to positively consider such requests. Moreover I indicated that I am currently placing great emphasis on the following four specific areas. These are environmental issues, matters relating to children and the elderly, international cultural exchange and promotion of friendship and goodwill among nations, and issues related to various new developments in industry and technology in Japan.
With respect to matters of increasing importance due to changes at home and abroad, to give one example, I can point to my involvement in water-related issues that I mentioned at the beginning. Water transportation issues, which are my own research area, include some of the most important water issues, and so I am very happy that I was able to speak about water transportation in Japan at the World Water Forum. As water transportation is my personal research theme, I intend to further deepen my research in the future and hope that I can put it to at least a little good use in the fulfillment of my official duties.
Regarding the question about my life work, as I mentioned just now, in the future I do hope to continue my research into the history of water-borne transport. I want to broaden my perspective beyond just Japan to the wider world, and by doing historical research into movements of people and goods deepen my understanding of communications between people through the medium of new forms of movement and transportation in the modern era.
Concerning the division of duties with Princess Masako, what we call "official duties" actually involves different activities, and their level of publicness varies. Therefore we will consider engagements case by case, and I think that in that process it will naturally become clear whether both of us should attend, or just myself, or just the Crown Princess. However, with official duties sometimes the person extending the invitation makes a specific request, and to date most have asked us both to attend. I believe the important thing is to think carefully about this before reaching a conclusion. In any case, Princess Masako is still recuperating from her illness so talk of the division of official duties will have to wait until after she recovers.
For my part, I intend to value each and every day and to strive as hard as I can to complete the tasks which I must perform as Crown Prince.
Since I was very young, I had many opportunities to go with Their Majesties the Emperor and Empress to see Emperor Showa. At such times, I strongly sensed that His Majesty the Emperor was engaged in many activities as Crown Prince. Although there were some duties which I could not engage in until I came of age, fortunately I did often have the opportunity as part of my daily life to meet foreign guests and many other guests when they came to visit us. I strongly feel that I learned the way a Crown Prince should be from being with His Majesty the Emperor as he as Crown Prince met with these people.
It would be difficult to give a concrete example, but I believe that it was watching His Majesty close by on various occasions that helped me to learn that the role of the Crown Prince is to assist His Majesty the Emperor and to undertake various official duties.
I have not personally read this book, although I have heard about its contents from the Grand Master of the Crown Prince's Household and I believe I have a grasp of its overall content. However, the Government is responding to this matter and therefore I do not have anything else to say.
Compared to her life thus far, Princess Aiko has joined a very large group, the kindergarten that she goes to. She has made friends, and I believe that she has learned a great deal through her time spent with her friends. In particular, I think that she has learned about being compassionate to friends. She is very concerned about them when they are absent from kindergarten, and when one of them has a small accident, she wonders to herself about whether or not they are all right. I have seen that kind of compassion for others in her as she worries about her classmates, and when she tells me these stories I truly feel that she is growing and I feel joy as a parent.