Date:February 20, 2015
At the Residence
It was extremely regrettable that during the past year we again saw natural disasters inflict tremendous damage on various regions of Japan and so many people lost their lives. I would like to offer my heartfelt condolences to the many people who lost their lives in the torrential rains centered on Hiroshima Prefecture in August and the eruption of Mt. Ontake in September and express my sympathies to the bereaved families and those who were affected by these disasters. I am also concerned about the damage caused due to heavy snowfall.
This year marked the twentieth anniversary of the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake in January and will also mark the fourth anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake in March. My thoughts reach out to the sadness and hardships faced by the people affected and I pray for the happiness and wellbeing of all those living in difficult environments.
I believe that many projects have also been created from the severe experiences of disasters, as people work to overcome adversity and create a vision for the future. In Hyogo Prefecture, which I visited in November last year, efforts have been made that memories of the disaster should never fade and that experiences should be transmitted across regions and generations. The other day I met with high school students from the “OECD Tohoku School”. They had participated in the “Tohoku-WA, la renaissance” event held in Paris last year in August. I was delighted to hear how the students of the affected regions had planned the event themselves and how their efforts in holding it had resulted in such a great success. Furthermore, I visited last year the Tokushima Prefecture Matsushige Disaster Prevention Center. What left a particular impression on me was how the elementary school students engaged diligently in discussions about preparations for a possible future Nankai Trough earthquake. They were discussing earnestly how they could safely take refuge in safe shelters, in the event that an earthquake should occur near their home or school. I believe that to reduce the risk of disasters both a daily mental preparedness and preparations in the form of regular exercises and drills are very important.
In January this year I attended The Tokyo Conference on International Study for Disaster Risk Reduction and Resilience, where countries including Japan shared their experiences of disasters. Next month the Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in Sendai is also scheduled to take place. I am hoping this conference will further advance international cooperation on preparations for future disasters. I will continue to take to heart the reconstruction of disaster-affected regions, striving to do all that I can while maintaining my interest in disaster reduction efforts.
In addition, I felt the dynamism of all the various regions I visited in the past year, which are engaging in such efforts as the revitalization of agriculture, forestry and fisheries, cultural promotion based on rich local traditions as well as the development of new products that combine cutting-edge technology with traditional industries. I hope further to widen my experiences of new measures in the future that seek to capitalize on the characteristics of various local areas on my visits to the regions of Japan.
In December last year I felt very pleased when Professors Isamu Akazaki, Hiroshi Amano and Shuji Nakamura received the Nobel Prize in Physics for the development of the blue light-emitting diode (LED). The prize that was received by these three professors on this occasion was the result of a broad body of diligent research and the support and cooperation of many people in academia and private corporations. I am hoping that in the future there will be further progress in Japan in the development of cutting-edge technology and basic research.
While on the one hand such technological innovations give rise to new economic activities, the global economy in both industrialized and developing countries is dealing with challenges such as income disparities and youth unemployment and facing issues such as fluctuations in currency and crude oil prices. Looking at the international situation, this past year was one in which armed conflict continued in the Middle East and other regions. In particular, I was deeply saddened that terrorist incidents occurred in various locations, including those that involved Japanese nationals. In November last year I met with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres, from whom I was informed of the seriousness of the environment concerning refugees, including children. Also, in October last year I attended in Tokyo the Special Thematic Session on Water and Disasters of the 23rd Meeting of the United Nations Secretary-General's Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation, for which I serve as honorary president, and the Third Symposium of Sultan Qaboos Academic Chairs on "Managing Water Resources for Sustainable Development," a symposium that was organized based on an initiative of the Royal Family of Oman. The question of how we can achieve a sustainable society through environmental conservation and the resolution of water-related issues is an urgent and pressing challenge. I believe that meetings such as these are questioning anew how we can realize global peace and prosperity in the future.
On the occasion of my attendance at the UNESCO World Conference on Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) held in Aichi Prefecture in November last year, I was very much encouraged to see the children there, who were thinking on their own about what they can do in the future to support the earth and to put those thoughts into action. I wish that each and every person in Japan will deepen friendship and goodwill with other countries, including young people making active efforts to travel overseas and engage in exchanges with young people in other countries in order to correctly understand the society and culture of those countries. Last month I gave a lecture at Gakushuin Women's College focusing on my experiences of studying overseas in the United Kingdom and I was delighted to see for myself that the students are all very internationally oriented. In June last year I visited Switzerland on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Japan and Switzerland. I hope that I can continue to make even a small contribution to improving friendship and goodwill with other countries. I would also like to continue to cherish my exchanges with young people from Japan and overseas.
This year, Japan will mark the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War. I believe that this presents an important opportunity to take deep thought for the many people who lost their lives in the war and to wish from the bottom of our hearts for peace. It is also important to make firmer friendships with countries around the world.
I am very delighted that His Majesty the Emperor and Her Majesty the Empress welcomed their eightieth birthdays in good health, at the end of 2013 and last year, respectively. This year is the twenty-seventh since His Majesty ascended the Throne and over the course of many years Their Majesties the Emperor and Empress have engaged in their official duties, hoping for the happiness of the people of Japan and trying to share their joys and sorrows. I would like to keep in mind the feelings of Their Majesties as I continue to engage wholeheartedly in my duties. I am 55 this year and when I think that this was the same age at which His Majesty ascended the Throne, I am filled anew with the feeling of responsibility and deep emotion. I always engage in my duties thinking back to the path travelled by previous emperors and 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. Also, His Majesty, with Her Majesty as a source of support by his side, has been constantly in quest of desirable answers of how to fulfill that symbolic role. I would like to continue in my own efforts by learning from the endeavors of Their Majesties.
From this year Prince Akishino and I will be taking over the visits that Their Majesties have conducted until now to related facilities on the occasion of Children's Day and Respect for the Aged Day. This year I plan to visit facilities relating to Children's Day. I have many opportunities to meet lively children, full of youthful ambition. They include child reporters from Okinawa and Hokkaido, Boy Scout members, and athletes and student volunteers at the National Inter-High School Championship. On the other hand, however, bullying and child abuse are worrying issues. It is important for efforts to be made across society as a whole to improve, however modestly, the environment for youth and children. Furthermore, in addition to ensuring that the children who will be responsible for the next generation are raised in a healthy manner, it is also important for the younger generation to have an interest in social issues and reach out to vulnerable people, including the elderly and the disabled, thus build a compassionate and tolerant society. I wish to continue to consider such matters, listening to the views of many of the people who are engaged in endeavors to build such a society.
In the Second World War many precious lives were lost in countries around the world, including in Japan, and I am greatly saddened to think of the suffering and tremendous sadness experienced by so many. Many people lost their lives in the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the aerial bombing of cities, including Tokyo, and the land battle in Okinawa. I think that it is important for us to never forget those who perished, remembering in our hearts that the Japan of today was built on the sacrifices made by many. It is important to deepen our recognition of past history as well as nurture hearts and minds that love peace, so that the horrors of war will never be repeated. I feel also that it is important to continue to strive toward a better Japan and to pass on our efforts to the next generation.
Their Majesties the Emperor and Empress have on various occasions to date mourned and paid tribute to all those who died in the war and prayed for world peace. This year, to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the end of the war, Their Majesties are scheduled in April to make a visit to the Republic of Palau. On the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the end of the war Their Majesties visited Saipan and I was moved in seeing Their Majesties pray for the dead from the depth of their hearts. Furthermore, as this year will mark the 70th anniversary of the end of the war, Their Majesties visited Hiroshima, Nagasaki and Okinawa last year and mourned the war dead. Since my childhood, every year on the day of remembrance for Okinawa, the anniversaries of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the anniversary of the end of the war, I have joined Their Majesties in observing a moment of silence and heard from them on such occasions about the suffering and sadness caused by the atomic bombings and the war. Furthermore, every year when I meet with child reporters both from Okinawa and those who have been dispatched from the Japanese mainland to Okinawa, I recall hearing also about Okinawan culture and the ferocity of the land battle that took place in Okinawa.
I have myself visited Hiroshima, Nagasaki and Okinawa, to remember in my heart and mind the suffering and torment of so many people. In 2007, on the occasion of my visit to Mongolia I paid my respects at the monument dedicated to those who died while detained in Mongolia. At that time I reflected on the hardships experienced by all of those who were detained in Siberia.
Although I was born after the war and did not experience it, I think that today, where memories of the war have started to fade, it is important to look back in a humble way on the past and pass on correctly the tragic experiences of war and the knowledge on the course of history, which Japan has followed, from the generation that experienced the war to those who have grown up without first-hand knowledge of it. Aiko has learned directly from Their Majesties about the war and I also talk with Aiko about what I have heard from Their Majesties and what I know about the war myself.
After experiencing the ravages of war, throughout the post-war period Japan has been rebuilt based on the foundation of the Constitution of Japan and today enjoys peace and prosperity. In commemorating the 70th anniversary of the end of the war, I wish that this year will provide opportunities to think deeply about the hardships and efforts of those who created the foundations for Japan's development and keep in heart and mind the preciousness of peace as well as renew the wish for peace.
Masako continues to take care of her health while receiving medical treatment, and has continued to engage in public duties and private activities to the extent that this is possible. Against that backdrop, looking back over the past year, we visited in July Mie Prefecture together to pay our respects at the Ise Grand Shrine and in November we visited Aichi Prefecture to attend the UNESCO World Conference on Education for Sustainable Development (ESD). In Tokyo too, Masako attended in October State events and ceremonies on the occasion of the State Visit of Their Majesties King Willem-Alexander and Queen Máxima of the Netherlands, as well as events at the Imperial Palace, including the tea held in honor of recipients of the Order of Cultural Merit in November. Here at the Residence too, Masako is a source of great support for me and watches warmly over the growth of Aiko.
In this way, although it is certainly the case that Masako's condition is improving, it does not mean that she will immediately be able to expand the scope of her activities. As her doctors have advised, I hope that she will take care of her health and, without being hasty, will carefully continue to broaden gradually the scope of her activities.
Aiko advanced to the Gakushuin Girls' Junior High School in spring last year and is attending school in good spirits. She began junior high school life in a new environment and I think that she has now become fairly accustomed to that environment. As a junior high school student the content of study is also difficult and there is also a large quantity, so Aiko is also applying herself diligently to her studies at home too. Masako and I look over Aiko's school work and we are often surprised at the difficulty of the content. At the same time, many new students have joined the junior high school from other schools, so Aiko's circle of friends is also increasing and also through interactions with students in senior years Aiko is enjoying a fruitful and fulfilling junior high school life.
In July Aiko joined Masako and I in paying our respects at the mausoleums of Emperor Showa and Empress Kojun. In 2013，on the occasion of the Shikinen Sengu (rebuilding the shrine every 20 years) ceremony of the Ise Grand Shrine, Aiko joined Masako and I in offering prayers towards the Grand Shrine of Ise. Also, while in the sixth grade at elementary school, as a member of the school broadcast club, Aiko studied the rebuilding ceremony of the Grand Shrine of Ise so that she could provide an explanation about it on the school public address system during lunch break. In this way I believe that she has further deepened her understanding about it by actually visiting the shrine and paying her respects. After that, in August last year, Aiko also accompanied Masako and I to the National Inter-High School Championship in Tokyo, where we watched the competitions. I perceive that Aiko has gradually become accustomed to attending such events and I hope that from now on she will little by little gain further experiences and deepen her understanding about the duties of the Imperial Family.
I am sincerely grateful to Their Majesties The Emperor and Empress for their thoughtfulness with regard to Masako's condition and the way in which they have affectionately watched over Aiko's growth. I am also profoundly grateful for the warm care and attention shown by all the people of Japan.
In August last year Showa Tenno Jitsuroku, the official account of Emperor Showa's life, was presented to Their Majesties the Emperor and Empress. I am delighted that the account has been completed thanks to the efforts of many people over a long period of time and I can only imagine the tremendous effort required by those who were engaged in its compilation. The account records the accomplishments of Emperor Showa throughout his life, based on objective materials, and I hope that through the publication of the contents of the account many people will take an interest in the accomplishments of Emperor Showa and also deepen their understanding of the Showa Era.
The account itself is a very expansive work and reading it in its entirety will take time, so I would like to refrain from commenting about individual details. However, the account recalls the personality of Emperor Showa, who thought of the people of Japan and engaged sincerely in his official duties throughout the more than 60-year period of the Showa Era, which was accompanied by upheaval and rapid change. I would like to continue to read more of the account in order also to understand the accomplishments of Emperor Showa and the changes of the Showa Era from a comprehensive perspective, including politics, society, culture and diplomacy. I recall fondly how, from an early age, Emperor Showa would speak to me kindly on the occasions I visited him at the Imperial Residence. I also had a deep sense of feeling from every story that I heard from Emperor Showa the importance of the duties of the Emperor and also the difficulties of such duties. One of the memories from my childhood is the time when I visited Emperor Showa at the Imperial Residence. Emperor Showa, who was a biologist, had entered his library in order to look something up. His Majesty the Emperor, then the Crown Prince, had also entered the library with Emperor Showa and I must have been interested too, because I recall following them into the library. In the library Emperor Showa had opened up a very thick book and I clearly remember Emperor Showa and His Majesty peering over the book and engaging seriously in discussion with a palpable sense of enjoyment. It was at that time that I felt keenly the importance of investigating something, if you have a question, and also the look in their eyes as researchers. I remember thinking, in my child's mind, that it must be really wonderful to engage in research.
Although my field of research is different from that of Emperor Showa and His Majesty, I am profoundly grateful to them for teaching me various things about the importance of the search for truth and the enjoyment to be found in such a search.
As I serve as Honorary President of the United Nations Secretary-General's Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation, I sincerely wish this year's World Water Forum every success in considering water-related issues.
With regard to my attendance at the meeting, as this is a matter to be considered by the Government, I would like to refrain from making any comment.
From an early age I was treated extremely kindly by Emperor Showa on the occasions that I visited the Imperial Residence. However, rather than Emperor Showa teaching me directly about official duties, I felt keenly from talking with Emperor Showa and seeing his way of being as Emperor the seriousness with which he engaged in official duties. This was for me a very great and important lesson.
I would like to refrain from speaking about any details of the conversations I had with Their Majesties. At that time, however, when Their Majesties spoke about such issues, I felt deeply moved by their talk of just how cruel and tragic the war was, and how such a war must never again be repeated. Their Majesties' desire to truly respect peace and maintain friendly relations with other countries with great importance are things that have been keenly brought to my mind. It is moreover such things that have also made a most significant impression upon me.