Press Conference on the Occasion of the Birthday of His Imperial Highness Prince Akishino (2006)

Transcript of Press Interview by Their Imperial Highnesses Prince and Princess Akishino held shortly before the Birthday of HIH Prince Akishino

Press Conference by Their Imperial Highnesses Prince and Princess Akishino.

Date:November 24, 2006

Residence of TIH Prince and Princess Akishino

Question 1
Your Highnesses, I would like to address this question to you both. The birth of your third child, twelve years after the birth of your second child, required a Caesarean section as a result of complications due to a partial placenta previa. This must have been a cause for great concern and stress for Your Highnesses. Would you care to tell us about what went through your minds when His Highness Prince Hisahito was born safe and sound, what you were thinking when you were informed of the pregnancy and also how you felt when you found out about the partial placenta previa? Would you please tell us also about hospital visits by Their Majesties the Emperor and Empress and Their Highnesses Princess Mako and Princess Kako, and any other thoughts or anecdotes about this latest birth? I would also like to ask you about whether you've had any thoughts about having a fourth child.
HIH Prince Akishino

Hisahito, our first son, was born on September 6th, and I was glad, first of all, that the birth went smoothly. Since it's been twelve years since the birth of our last child, this makes him the first baby for us in a rather long time, so the experience was very fresh and new. Being diagnosed with partial placenta previa forced Her Highness to enter hospital earlier than usual but given that medical care has advanced considerably since our last child, I don't think we were overly concerned about her condition. As for events that took place while she was in hospital, would you care to talk about that? (Turning toward HIH Princess)

HIH Princess Akishino

While I was in hospital, Their Majesties the Emperor and Empress were kind enough to come and visit me personally, and I was very happy to have the chance to spend some very relaxing time with Their Majesties. Just as when our two daughters were born, Their Majesties were very thoughtful and considerate to me during my pregnancy. Their Majesties were also very concerned and considerate about my placenta previa, and I was and am deeply grateful to them for this.

His Highness also encouraged me warmly and calmly since before my hospitalization and helped to allay my anxiety both about the fact that this was my first pregnancy in a long time as well as the placenta previa. His Highness was also kind enough to discuss medical matters in plain language for me, and I was very thankful for this.

Our daughters happened to be on summer vacation while I was hospitalized, and this meant that they were able to come and visit me often, sometimes with His Highness and at other times on their own. Mako told me in her usual lively way about her Austrian stay, which I had been looking forward to hearing about, and she showed me brochures from the concerts that she attended there. We also listened to some of the music CDs that she bought in Austria. Kako came to visit me in my room almost everyday, doing her homework at the side of my bed, and she happily told me about what was going on at our house while I was away and also about her skating practices.

HIH Prince Akishino

Our children, or the youngest one in particular… well, I guess I can't say youngest any more (general laughter). Kako, our second daughter, seemed to be very happy spending long hours next to her mother. Perhaps, that was why she went to hospital often and worked on her homework there.

HIH Princess Akishino


HIH Prince Akishino

Mako, our oldest daughter, didn't go to the hospital as often, and when she did go, she didn't stay as long as Kako. As a result she ended up spending more time talking with me. In that sense, we had a number of chances for good father-and-daughter communication. (Turning toward HIH Princess)

HIH Princess Akishino

(After pondering for a few moments) I was relieved that our child was born healthy. At the same time, I felt truly grateful to Their Majesties and the many other people, including members of the medical team and our families, who provided me with encouragement and support from this past spring up until the birth. Thinking back on the births of our two daughters, I was filled with happiness at the thought of having a new member in our family. I also felt filled with love for this new baby, and at the same time I was also reminded of the weight of my responsibility for nurturing this new life.

When I found out that we had conceived a third child, I was full of happiness and I wished for a safe birth, just as I had for our two daughters. I've already told you about the kind visits I received from different people while I was in hospital.

Lastly, while in hospital, as I received the best medical carepossible, I was able to spend quiet and peaceful time with my family. It helped me realize that I wasn't alone so I didn't need to be anxious or preoccupied about the placenta previa, and that my family could help me shoulder my anxiety as well as share in the joy of greeting our new born. As a result, I was able to spend each day being grateful for their support as I waited for the baby to be born.

HIH Prince Akishino

As for having a fourth child, we are not thinking about that at present.

Question 2
I would like to address this question to you both. Prince Hisahito, the new member of your family is your first son and also the first grandson of Their Majesties. Would you care to comment on your first experiences with educating a boy and also on what sort of expectations you hold for Prince Hisahito's growth as a male member of the Imperial Family? Please tell us also about how His Highness is doing these days.
HIH Prince Akishino

We haven't had any experience of caring for a boy before and don't know what sort of things he may go through in his growth. Basically, however, we intend to relate to him in the same way as we have with our daughters. All I can say now is that we hope he will grow up in good health. As for how he is doing recently, he sleeps a lot, cries a lot, and laughs a lot. He also drinks a lot of milk, doesn't he? (Turning toward HIH Princess)

HIH Princess Akishino

(Nodding toward HIH Prince) Hisahito will be three months old at the beginning of next month. He is sleeping less compared to before, and he is getting bigger day by day. When he is held by His Highness or by his sisters and is talked to, he tends to smile in response, and he has also started to make cute and cheerful noises more often. He gazes at various parts of his room and at the things he plays with. He shows interest in things that move and is now able to follow them with his eyes. Sometimes, he seems to listen to the notes coming from the guitar His Highness plays and dozes off with a look of contentment on his face. When our daughters come home from school in the late afternoon, they immediately go and check on Hisahito. They look into his eyes and say he is cute, and they want to take care of him by doing whatever chores they can. They are a great help to me.

Whenever we are spending these sorts of pleasant times together with Hisahito, I tend to think back to that time, more than ten years ago, when I was young and losing myself as I tried to take care of my two very young daughters and do my work at the same time. They are now in primary and junior high schools respectively, and still they do not fail to bring great joy and happiness to His Highness and myself. I am deeply moved by the fact that we are now living as a family of five.

As for our family life from this point forward, keeping in mind that Hisahito is only two months old, I would like to concentrate on watching over him so that he continues to be healthy, both in mind and body. As I told you on another occasion, it is very important for any child to learn good fundamental habits of life. For example, learning how to respect others and to be appropriately thankful to others. As time goes by, we would like to learn what is required of us and of him, and we will seek advice from Their Majesties and the many people around us on how best to do this. (Turning toward His Highness) I forgot to mention one thing when I was asked about how I felt when I found out about the placenta previa. May I now say a few words? (His Highness nods in assent so Her Highness starts to speak again.)

When I was diagnosed with placenta previa, I realized that even though I had experienced two births before, all I knew about the various concerns and risks associated with pregnancy and childbirth was limited to information I had picked up from popular books on medicine. We learned from our doctors that placenta previa requires the patient to stay in bed for close observation for any changes in physical condition; that the mother and the child are exposed to certain risks even if the mother remains in bed; and that the risks have been greatly reduced thanks to modern medical advances. I paid attention to this throughout the rest of my pregnancy.

HIH Prince Akishino

As I mentioned earlier, I believe that Her Highness was reassured by this knowledge and as a result and was relatively free from undue worry.

HIH Princess Akishino

I am grateful for how I was cared for.

Question 3
I would like to address this question to you both. Princess Mako accompanied Your Highness Prince Akishino on your official work on a few occasions this year and was engaged in her first home stay in Austria this summer. Princess Kako is devoted to figure skating outside of her school life. Would you care to comment on the process of growth of your two daughters and also on your future expectations for them as female members of the Imperial Family?
HIH Prince Akishino

Mako, our eldest daughter, turned fifteen last month and she is, I think, in the process of moving from childhood to young adulthood. When she talks with me, she's now able to express her own views about what we are talking about. I took her with me to Okinawa and Ise this year, and for the first time she went by herself to Austria this past summer for a home stay there, and she seems to have had a very enjoyable time. All of these events, I suspect, proved to be valuable experiences for her. Meanwhile, Kako, our youngest daughter, is working hard on her figure skating and, at the same time, she continues her what do you call it? You call it handicrafts? (Asking Her Highness)

HIH Princess Akishino

Yes, handicrafts.

HIH Prince Akishino

She's been fond of doing handicrafts for a long time, When I look into her room in the evening, for example, she is often working on something; what is it that she's doing? (Asking Her Highness)

HIH Princess Akishino

Making things with felt cloth, for example.

HIH Prince Akishino

Before the baby was born, she was making something for him.

Now, turning to your next question about the role of female members of the Imperial Family, I believe that they would be in the same position as we are, so that means that they would perform whatever work society asks them to perform, as long as it is beneficial. On this point, I do not believe that there is any difference between the male and female members of the Imperial Family. As a result, I cannot think of any roles specific to female members, as far as their official work is concerned, at least.

HIH Princess Akishino

In the period leading up to the birth, I was focused on resting quietly on the advice of my doctors and spent most of my time at our residence. Under such circumstances, I was able to spend more time talking with our daughters than I normally do.

While they were concerned about my physical condition and were always careful about it, they wanted to talk to me about many things including the things happening at school. For my part, I was able to talk to them about the many things that I was feeling and thinking as we spent time together. They each responded by telling me whatever crossed their minds, and as time went by they became good conversation partners for me, and occasionally I found myself seeking advice from them. I am happy that they have matured to the point that this is possible.

Some of the topics that we discussed stemmed from the many stories I heard this year when I met with people engaged in health care for mothers and infants and in community medical services. They included, for example, the very difficult conditions surrounding medical care for pregnant women and for infants in many developing countries, and the worsening shortage of people planning to become gynecologists and pediatricians in Japan.

In addition, I told them that if I happened to live far away from medical-care professionals and had remained ignorant of the fact that I had placenta previa, the risks to me would have been much greater and it might have been difficult for me to spend each day the way I did. I told them about my sense of gratitude to the doctors, midwives, nurses, and the many others who were involved in bringing about a safe birth, and that I was thankful for the chance for us to bring the baby into the world in good health. They listened carefully to my words and seemed to understand the feelings that I tried to convey.

As His Highness told you earlier, Mako went to Austria during her summer vacation and stayed at our acquaintance's in the suburbs of Vienna for about two weeks. Being away from home and exposed to a different living environment with a different language and different foods, she may have had a number of new experiences but regardless, her host family was very kind to her during her stay and I am deeply grateful to them. Ultimately Mako was able to observe, through her own eyes, a number of new things and she came home with a great deal of fresh experiences and happy memories. All in all, I believe the trip was a valuable experience for her.

Kako is now in her last year in primary school; she served as a receptionist in the admission ceremony to welcome new first graders in the spring, took part in the one-kilometer long-distance swim at her seaside school in the summer, and went on a school tour to Nara in September. These activities are typical of the school programs she's been participating in during the very full life of a sixth grader. Meanwhile, just as usual, she is working very hard on her figure skating practices. Also, she helped me prepare for the birth scheduled for September. I was happy to witness the way that Kako prepared for the arrival of a new baby; she showed a lot of tenderness and paid close attention to the details.

As for the future, I sincerely hope that our daughters will continue to acquire the ability to discern what society expects of them, as they continue to accumulate experiences through the course of their life so that they are able to meet the tasks they are called upon to perform.

They also had the chance to observe the life of Her Highness Princess Norinomiya at close range as she prepared for her marriage. After having watched Her Highness perform each of her duties carefully and in a discreet way, I hope that our daughters will develop an ever-deepening understanding about the roles they will be expected to play on their own as they grow up.

Question 4
I would like to address this question to Your Highness Prince Akishino. Your son was born during the course of this year, and Your Highness also performed a number of official duties this year, including your first trip to Paraguay. Looking back over the year, would you care to tell us about any of the memorable experiences you had while in Paraguay?
HIH Prince Akishino

You are asking about the past year from my perspective? Well, we learned about the pregnancy in February, and our child was born in September. In addition, I had the chance to visit many parts of our country, and I met and talked with a wide variety of people. I also made my first official visit to Paraguay. Incidentally, the ceremony commemorating the seventieth anniversary of the Japanese emigration to Paraguay coincided with the birth of my child, so as a result I had to excuse myself from the event. Nevertheless, I wanted very much to visit the country during the year of the seventieth anniversary, so I was very happy that I was able to make the trip this year. I was only In Paraguay for three nights and four days, but we had a rather relaxed schedule, which gave me the chance to talk with many Paraguayans of Japanese descent. Those I spoke with included a fairly large number of first-generation emigrants, and their stories revealed that it was actually much harder than I had expected for them to settle down and start farming in Paraguay. The places where these people now lead normal lives used to be untouched forests full of huge trees in the days when the settlers first arrived.

As a result, they had to cut down these big trees and burn the ground, or do what's described as slashing and burning, before they could turn the land into farmland. When they cut down the trees, I was told that people sometimes got caught underneath the falling trees, and as a result they ended up being injured or even physically disabled. I also heard for the first time the expressions “Three years after an over-burn” and “three years after an under-burn.” When I asked the person using these expressions what he meant, he explained that if you set the land on fire and then let it burn too much, the soil became too hard, making it next to impossible to cultivate. On the contrary, if you didn't burn the land enough, those tree roots that went deep would not be killed and so the trees would grow back or vermin would reappear, which also made it very difficult to cultivate the land. In other words, controlling the fire was a very delicate process, and if you let it burn too little or too much the soil would be unusable for the next three years. This is one of those things that you wouldn't know unless you were told by a person who had actually experienced it, so I believe that it was a very valuable opportunity for me to speak with these people.

As you can see, a number of things have taken place this past year, and as far as I'm concerned, and as far as my family is concerned, I would say it has been a good year overall.

Question 5
Thank you. This is going to be our last question then, addressed to Your Highness Prince Akishino. Their Majesties the Emperor and Empress visited three countries in Southeast Asia in June. In the summer, His Highness the Crown Prince and his family stayed in the Netherlands for rest and recuperation, on their first trip abroad for such a purpose, and as a result they were able to renew their close relations with the Dutch Royal Family. These and many other events took place for the Imperial Family during the year. Looking back on the year from the point of view of the Imperial Family, would you care to give us your thoughts?
HIH Prince Akishino

It may be difficult, I'm afraid, to respond to your question with a simple summary, but let me try.

First, regarding Their Majesties the Emperor and Empress, as in any other year, I've gained the impression that, in addition to Their Majesties' official duties that take place outside the palace, there are also an extremely large number of events that are conducted inside the Palace. For example, as the number of countries increases, there are more and more state guests coming to visit Japan today. In addition, Their Majesties seem to be receiving foreign ambassadors stationed in Tokyo more frequently these days. On a rather large number of occasions, in response to requests from government agencies and other state organs, Their Majesties meet with people who have worked steadily and assiduously for many years in various parts of society, for the purpose of conveying official thanks for their efforts. I've noticed that a large number of these events often go unnoticed by the media. I've also noticed that when Their Majesties travel to visit communities outside of Tokyo, inspection tours intended to study local circumstances are usually organized for Their Majesties, in addition to the main events that are organized at their official destinations. Their Majesties seem to have a strong desire to go to places that they have not yet had the chance to visit whenever possible. Take Hokkaido, for instance, which was the location of an Imperial tour in September, and which required a series of trips covering rather large distances. Their Majesties are performing this kind of official work very energetically, and I suspect that many of these kinds of activities are of the type that can only be performed by His or Her Majesty. Nevertheless, I felt often in the course of the year that given their age, it must be very hard for Their Majesties to engage in such a large amount of official work.

As for Their Highnesses the Crown Prince and Princess, they returned safely from their trip to the Netherlands after having the opportunity to spend time with members of the Dutch Royal Family. Just a while ago, the Chakko [hakama-wearing] ceremony for Her Highness Princess Aiko was performed according to tradition, and we were pleased by this news. Naturally, Their Highnesses must be very happy about it.

My sister got married in November last year, and one year has already passed. Her life must have changed significantly compared with the years she spent before her marriage. I'm wondering whether she's now used to married life. (Turning toward Her Highness). Well, I hope that she'll gradually get accustomed to it. These are some of the things that have crossed my mind this year.

Follow-up Q1
Thank you very much for holding this press conference today. You mentioned earlier that His Highness Hisahito has come to live at home, and Your highness is playing guitar for him? Also, you mentioned that Princesses Mako and Kako are helping you around the house and making you feel relaxed. Do they help you bathe the baby for example? What sort of things are they doing to help you? If you wouldn't mind, could you tell us more about how your family is living day to day?
HIH Prince Akishino

I'm not much of a guitar player. I was fond of it when I was younger, and I still remember how to play, and so I sing and play from time to time. I went to Paraguay or the Latin American region recently, and memories from the trip are helping me, perhaps; I try to strum and hum along to tunes like "El Condor Passa," which is a famous one I think. (Turning toward Her Highness)

HIH Princess Akishino

Also, "El Humahuaqueno." (Looking at His Highness)

HIH Prince Akishino

"El Humahuaqueno," right. Anything else you can think of? (Looking at Her Highness)

HIH Princess Akishino

(Looking at His Highness). There isn't really a set schedule; our daughters help out when their schedules permit. They have their own daily schedules, and when they have a bit of free time, they try to help me with things that I haven't been able to do myself, such as changing the baby's clothing. They may play together with Hisahito, or when he wants to be cuddled, they'll hold him in a very affectionate way.
The baby tends to sleep most of the time, but we all try to be quiet when he is asleep. When he is awake, as I said earlier, we may be busy talking about what happened during the day, and Hisahito seems to try to listen to our conversation. He is more attentive these days to our movements. Probably, as each month passes, I may have to ask my daughters to give me a hand more often.

Follow-up Q2
This is a related question to an earlier question. Earlier, you referred to Princess Mako and handicrafts she was making for the baby?
HIH Prince Akishino

That is Kako you're talking about?

Excuse me, Your Highness. Yes, I was referring to Princess Kako. She was making something for the baby shortly before he was born, you said. Could you be more specific about what it was that she was making?

HIH Prince Akishino

(Turning toward Her Highness)What was she making, I wonder? I saw her when she was making something, but I'm not sure what it was.

HIH Princess Akishino

Well, Kako was making some little things that are safe for the baby to play with. (Nodding to His Highness)

HIH Prince Akishino


HIH Princess Akishino

I guess you could call them toys. Some things made from felt that are safe for the baby to handle. Mako helped her when she was making them sometimes.