Date:February 21, 2011
At the Residence
Looking back on the past year, natural disasters occurred one after the other in Japan. In summer, we had the long spells of intense heat in many parts of the country and, conversely in winter, Japan suffered from severe cold and snow damage, in addition to the eruptions on Shinmoedake peak in the Kirishima range in Kyushu since the beginning of this year. Countries abroad such as Brazil and Australia have suffered damage from large-scale floods at the end of last year and in January of this year. I offer my prayers for the souls of those who lost their lives in various disasters in Japan and abroad and my sympathies for people suffering from the damage from the disasters.
I also sympathize with the sorrow of people who had no choice but to slaughter the livestock that they had carefully reared due to the outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in Miyazaki Prefecture and avian influenza in various regions in Japan, as well as with the hard work of people engaged in the slaughter operations.
The international community is facing instability and uncertainty, such as the situation of Northeast Asia and a series of moves in the Middle East region that started at the end of last year through to this year. On the economic front, severe conditions still prevail. It concerns me that people of Japan, young people in particular, are facing difficulties in getting jobs. I am also worried about the inward-looking tendency that is becoming increasingly apparent in younger generations as shown in the decreasing number of young Japanese people studying abroad, which perhaps is influenced by the difficulty in getting jobs against the backdrop of severe economic conditions. Nowadays, development of the Internet is making it easier to obtain information on various events around the world without going to the places in which the events are actually happening. Yet I believe that nothing can replace going to various places in the world, seeing it with our own eyes, reaching out and touching it with our own hands, and accumulating various experiences. Isn't it also important for young people to have an experience of seeing Japan from outside of Japan? Through such experience, I believe, they will be able to see Japan in a way that they would not have been able to know about otherwise. In fact, various events that I experienced when I was studying in the United Kingdom are my valuable assets today. I would like members of the younger generation to have an interest in various events in the world and harness their abilities to the full extent across the entire world.
As for the elderly people, what left a strong impression on me was, as described in the question, the issue of the older people unaccounted for, which became big news last year, and also the incidence of many elderly people passing away due to heatstroke amidst the intense heat. It is to be hoped that a society can be realized in which the elderly people can live their lives healthily without worries.
While there were many worrying events such as these, the event of people going under the name of the main character of Tiger Mask delivering gifts of goodwill, which happened successively across the country from the end of last year to this year, is one manifestation of goodwill. That, together with the well-led rescue activity in the cave-in accident at the copper-gold mine in Chile of last year, was heartwarming news. These events have reaffirmed my belief in the importance of connections among people and of being considerate of each other. I intend to continue holding close to my heart the people of Japan who are in difficult situations.
The visit to Ghana and Kenya of last March was an event that left an impression on me in the course of my official activities over the past year. That was my first visit to Africa south of the Sahara desert, or to Sub-Saharan Africa. While realizing that Africa is currently facing various issues, I also keenly felt that Africa has a great potential for the future. At the same time, the enthusiastic view of the people in Africa toward Japan left a strong impression on me. I was very much encouraged when I learned that the work undertaken by Dr. Hideyo Noguchi, including the research on yellow fever, has been taken over even today by the people engaged in medical care, members of Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers, and other people in the region. I was also delighted to visit and see the actual sites in which the Japanese people are deeply involved in the efforts for the widespread cultivation of a rice species called NERICA (New Rice for Africa), which requires little water and can be grown in dry regions of Africa, and in the efforts for the development of irrigation facilities.
I spoke about natural disasters earlier on in this press conference. In relation to that, on many occasions over the past year when I heard about threats of natural disasters and various issues arising in post-disaster reconstruction activities, I reaffirmed the importance of global efforts to address water issues. My term as the Honorary President of the United Nations Secretary-General's Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation, which was due to expire last December, has been extended by two years upon the request by the United Nations Secretary-General. I would like to continue deepening my knowledge on water issues and endeavoring to be of service to the fullest extent possible in my position so that various water-related issues around the world will move in a favorable direction.
In the press conference held on the occasion of my birthday of last year, the first year of my fifties, I stated, quoting the remarks of His Majesty the Emperor, that thinking back to the path travelled by the previous Emperors, keeping firmly implanted in my mind the stipulation of the Constitution of Japan that the Emperor shall be the symbol of the State and the Unity of the People, trying to share the joys and sorrows of the people of Japan, and hoping for the happiness of the people, I would continue seeking an appropriate answer to the question of how that symbolic role should be interpreted. This is still an endeavor which is in progress. I will continue devoting myself diligently to the endeavor, while seeing the things that Their Majesties the Emperor and the Empress do.
Last but not least, at this moment I will refrain from speaking about an invitation to the wedding ceremony of Prince William of the United Kingdom as we have not received the invitation from the Royal Family of the United Kingdom. When and if the invitation arrives, I believe deliberation will take place within the government first.
One year is about to pass since the school issue of Aiko arose. Their Majesties the Emperor and the Empress as well as many of the people of Japan have been concerned about the issue over the past year and I would like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude to them for looking out for Aiko compassionately.
Masako and I have spent the past year thinking and exploring together what it is that we as parents can do for Aiko. Aiko is trying very hard, positively, to overcome the fear and pain that she experienced at school. It has been our wish as parents to support her as much as we can. In consultation with teachers at school, Masako is still accompanying Aiko to school but, thankfully, Aiko is able to spend much longer periods of time in school and she enthusiastically attends events such as the school field day, school festival day, and field trips. I believe things are moving in a good direction.
With regard to the question as to what I think is necessary going forward, I believe it is necessary to keep working to create, with the help of people around us, an environment for Aiko to be able to return to the former routine, while respecting her wishes and feelings and asking the school for their understanding and cooperation. I appreciate that people continue calmly watching over Aiko so that she can go to school in peace.
Masako has been continuing with medical care for a long period of time, but as the doctors to the Crown Prince's Household stated, looking from a long-term perspective, she is making a steady recovery over these years. With regard to official duties as well, last year Masako visited Hyogo Prefecture to attend the Memorial Ceremony to Commemorate the 15th Anniversary of the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake, prior to which she attended Kanagawa Prefecture, Nagano Prefecture, and Tokushima Prefecture as well as official duties in Tokyo. Although in a limited way, Masako is doing the best she can, which I believe all of you are aware of. For the question just being asked, the doctors issued a statement in February last year. Here, they pointed out, "When the patient is undergoing treatment and on a path to recovery, it is essential that there be a warm reassuring environment where even a small achievement or effort is acknowledged, rather than focusing on what has not been achieved. I think it is desirable that the people should understand this point with regard to the treatment of Her Imperial Highness." I ask the media again for further understanding and consideration on this point.
On that basis, I would say that for the past year Masako has been making as much effort as she can as mother to Aiko in order for her to resume normal school life, by accompanying her to school and through other efforts. Being with her all the time, I personally feel this requires a considerable effort, and that Masako is truly working hard every day in spite of not being in her optimum condition. Therefore, other activities such as official duties are bound to be limited, which the doctors pointed out in order to seek the understanding of the people. Looking at her extraordinary commitment every day, I also feel inclined to ask the people to watch over her warmly, with understanding regarding this situation.
I am sincerely concerned about Their Majesties' statements concerning their age, and about the discovery of myocardial ischemia during His Majesty's medical checkup at the University of Tokyo Hospital, for which His Majesty has started undergoing treatment.
As I have said before, I am aware that as Crown Prince I must support Their Majesties. Concerning Their Majesties' role in official duties, I think it is important to make sure to not overburden Their Majesties by considering the content of the official duties, as has been done within the Imperial Household Agency. At the same time, however, I think they should be arranged in a way that is in accordance with the wishes of His Majesty, who sincerely values his responsibilities as the Emperor.
Above all, I sincerely pray from the depths of my heart that Their Majesties will take good care of themselves and continue to enjoy good health.
Previously, I said that as new ideas about the needs for official duties naturally emerge in accordance with the changing times, it is important to consider official duties in such a way as to respond to new social needs, in accordance with these changes. That belief has not changed. Last year, I indicated water issues, environmental issues, and affairs concerning children and the elderly as areas of interest. But I am not limiting myself to these areas. I believe there will be social needs for new official duties in other areas as well, which I would like to deal with in a sincere manner.
With Prince Akishino, there are a number of occasions where there are opportunities to discuss various issues, and I intend to do so in the future as well.
I have watched the grand sumo tournament together with Princess Masako and Princess Aiko, and with Their Majesties the Emperor and the Empress many times when I was young. Therefore, I am also concerned about the current situation of professional sumo wrestling. Although there seem to be a range of issues, amidst this difficult situation I sincerely hope that the issue in question is resolved so that sumo can be enjoyed by the people again and into the future as the national sport.
Concerning this point, I have been considering and taking various responses while having a number of discussions with the school. I will refrain from stating the specific content of these discussions here, as it concerns our relationship with the school.