Commemoration of 10th Anniversary
of the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake
Address by His Majesty The Emperor
January 17, 2005
As we commemorate the tenth anniversary of the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake, I mourn for the more than 6,400 people who lost their lives in this tragedy and once again express my deepest condolences.
The damage caused by the pre-dawn earthquake and the accompanying fires ten years ago was really massive. Two weeks after the earthquake when we visited the disaster-affected area, the towns were miserably devastated by the disaster, and in Nagata Ward, people were searching through the debris for those who were not yet accounted for. I still recall the grief-stricken look of people who had lost their family members and homes. The people in the disaster-affected area bore their grief, bravely encouraged each other, rebuilt their lives, and worked hard towards restoring their communities.
In the 13th year of the Heisei era (2001), six years after the earthquake, we once again visited this place. We were so delighted to see that what had once been the site of a disaster was reborn as a city with lush greenery. I wish to applaud the people of Hyogo Prefecture for their efforts, and convey my sincere appreciation to the support by administration officials and volunteers who came to help from all over the nation, as well as to the cooperation from overseas.
Here in the Hanshin-Awaji region, various efforts have been made to widely pass on the experiences and lessons learned from the earthquake and apply them to the future. I believe it is extremely meaningful that people both in Japan and overseas are learning from the experiences of Hyogo Prefecture and making further efforts to utilize the findings in earthquake preparedness and disaster recovery. In the occurrence of natural disasters in recent years, I find it reassuring to see volunteers from many different prefectures and regions cooperating with each other, and the spirit of mutual support taking root.
Now that ten years have passed, it is said that the percentage of the population that did not experience the earthquake is increasing even within the disaster-affected areas. We must, however, never forget the tragedy brought by the disaster. By making known to the people of Japan and the rest of the world the realities of this disaster, we must build a safe society, in which as many lives as possible are saved from such unforeseen disasters. I wish to pay tribute to the memory of the victims, lamenting many lives lost in this earthquake and fervently hoping that further effort will be exerted by all to ensure that their sacrifice will not be in vain.
United Nations World Conference on Disaster Reduction
Address by His Majesty The Emperor
January 18, 2005
I consider it highly significant that the United Nations World Conference on Disaster Reduction, with participants from all over the world, is being held here in Kobe City of Hyogo Prefecture, which suffered massive damage caused by the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake 10 years ago.
The huge earthquake and the accompanying tsunami which occurred at the end of last year in waters off Sumatra have caused damage not only in the surrounding countries but also over a widespread region, and it is said that the current death toll and the number of missing in total amount to more than 180,000. I wish to express my deepest condolences to those bereaved by this disaster.
Japan has been frequently struck by tsunami. A recent tsunami is the one caused by the Earthquake off Southwest Hokkaido of 1993, which inflicted heavy damage by earthquake and accompanying tsunami and fire on Okushiri Island and resulted in more than 200 fatalities and missing persons. We visited the disaster-affected area about two weeks after the Earthquake, and it was painful to see the terrible devastation there.
One of the major tsunamis recorded in Japanese history is the Meiji Sanriku Earthquake Tsunami of 1896, which killed more than 20,000 people. Later, in 1933, the Sanriku Earthquake Tsunami struck the same region again, and brought about 3,000 fatalities and missing persons. With almost a 40 year break between these two tsunamis, people did not have sufficient sense of vigilance against a post-quake tsunami in the second disaster, which is known to have expanded the damage.
This instance suggests that the most important factor in disaster reduction is to learn lessons from past disasters and to take measures in response. The theme of the 1.17 Declaration made at the Memorial Gathering in Commemoration of the 10th Anniversary of the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake here yesterday was, "We shall never forget." I felt it crucial since I learned that one-quarter of the current population of Kobe did not experience that earthquake disaster.
Every year, all over the world, many people are killed and tremendous damage is incurred by such natural disasters as typhoons, hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, and droughts. Since Japan is located in an active seismic zone, with mountainous topography marked by numerous volcanoes, and lies along a typhoon path, it has been struck by various natural disasters from ancient times.
However, as a result of concerted efforts made by the Japanese people to promote soil conservation and flood control, and to improve methods of predicting storms and floods and early warning systems at times of disaster, in recent years, the number of fatalities per year caused by natural disasters has fallen. I am pleased to see that our disaster reduction efforts are paying off.
Damage from natural disasters may vary in their types and by region, but it is nonetheless possible to work across national boundaries, learning from past experiences, and preparing for future disasters, in the areas of prediction and disaster reduction measures as well as rescue of victims in the aftermath of disasters and recovery of disaster-affected areas. As has been the case in the most recent great tsunami, international cooperation is essential for rescue and recovery efforts when large-scale damage occurs over a wide region, and I feel reassured by the participation of so many countries, including Japan, in aiding the disaster-affected region.
This World Conference will look back on the disasters and disaster reduction activities that have taken place around the world over the past 10 years since the World Conference on Natural Disaster Reduction was held in Yokohama in 1994. It presents a precious opportunity to share mutual experiences, to protect lives and livelihoods of people from natural disasters, by aiming to strengthen preparedness and to create a society where people can live in safety and security. It is my sincerest hope that through discussions at this Conference, the knowledge and technologies Japan has developed over its many years of experience in the area of disaster reduction will contribute in some way to reducing damage caused by natural disasters in other countries around the world.
I would like to conclude my remarks, wishing that this Conference will have fruitful results, making for a safer world.
Address by His Majesty the Emperor
at the State Banquet in Honor of
His Majesty the Yang di-Pertuan Agong XII Tuanku Syed Sirajuddin
Ibni Al-Marhum Tuanku Syed Putra Jamalullail and
Her Majesty the Raja Permaisuri Agong Tuanku Fauziah binti
Al-Marhum Tengku Abdul Rashid of Malaysia
The Imperial Palace Tokyo,
March 7, 2005
I wish to extend a heartfelt welcome to His Majesty the Yang di-Pertuan Agong XII of Malaysia, Tuanku Syed Sirajuddin, and Her Majesty the Raja Permaisuri Agong, who are visiting our country as State Guests. It is my great pleasure to spend this evening here with you.
Your Majesty's father, the late Yang di-Pertuan Agong III, Tuanku Syed Putra, accompanied by Your Majesty's mother, visited Japan in 1964 as State Guests. At that time, my father Emperor Showa and my mother Empress Kojun welcomed them, and the Empress and I, then Crown Prince and Crown Princess, had the pleasure of meeting them. Today, 41 years and one generation later in each of our families, I am profoundly moved to welcome Your Majesties as State Guests.
We first met Your Majesties six years after Your Majesty's father visited Japan, when I visited Your country accompanied by the then Crown Princess on behalf of Emperor Showa. At that time, Your Majesty's father had completed his five-year term as Yang di-Pertuan Agong and was in the state of Perlis as Raja. The then Timbalan Yang di-Pertuan Agong and Timbalan Raja Permaisuri Agong courteously welcomed us in Kuala Lumpur on behalf of the new Yang di-Pertuan Agong, who was ill at the time. During this visit, we had the opportunity to travel to the states of Penang, Selangor and Johore, and we also visited Your Majesty's father and mother in Perlis with the feeling that we were reciprocating their visit. I still remember the warm hospitality that Your Majesties, the Crown Prince and Crown Princess of Perlis at that time, and Your Majesty's parents extended to us on that occasion.
Our second visit to Malaysia was in 1991 after my accession to the throne, and I was welcomed with gracious hospitality by the then Yang di-Pertuan Agong, His Majesty Sultan Azlan Shah. We invited Your Majesty's parents to the banquet we hosted on this occasion and were happy to see them in good health. We were impressed that Malaysia had developed into a beautiful country in the 21 years since our last visit and that in the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur, a rubber forest was transformed into an oil palm forest. Two years later, His Majesty the Yang di-Pertuan Agong IX, Sultan Azlan Shah, together with Her Majesty the Raja Permaisuri Agong, visited Japan as State Guests.
Malaysia and Japan established diplomatic relations in 1957, the same year that Malaysia gained independence. Since then, the two countries have maintained uninterrupted friendly relations and cooperation. The people of Malaysia and Japan already had exchanges even a long time ago. Looking back through history, there are records of commerce between the Kingdom of Malacca and the Kingdom of the Ryukyus in the 16th century as well as commerce by “Shuinsen”, trading ships licensed by the Tokugawa Shogunate in the 17th century.
Today, Malaysia and Japan have forged close relations in various fields such as the political and economic, as well as science and technology and culture, and the two countries also enjoy vigorous people-to-people exchanges. In particular, since the proclamation of Malaysia's Look East policy in 1981, for over 20 years, many outstanding students and trainees from Malaysia have been coming to Japan. During their stay in Japan, they foster friendships with many people and become active in many fields upon their return to Malaysia. I am happy to see that these continuing exchanges will contribute significantly to promoting mutual understanding and friendly relations between Malaysia and Japan in the future.
Japan has placed value in developing friendly relations with Malaysia and other ASEAN countries for many years. In order to further advance regional cooperation in the East Asian region, in which both countries are situated, I believe that it is increasingly important for Malaysia and Japan to go forward hand-in-hand. I hope that the people of the two countries will further deepen their understanding of one another through mutual exchanges. It is also my hope that Malaysia and Japan will build close friendly and cooperative relations that will contribute to the peace and prosperity of the East Asian region as well as the world.
Lastly, I can well imagine Your Majesty's distress that over 70 of Your Malaysian people lost their lives or went missing due to the tsunami that occurred in December last year, and I would like to express anew my deepest grief for the victims of the disaster.
For the first time in quite a while, Japan has had a lot of snow this past winter, but is about to welcome the spring. I sincerely wish that Your Majesties' visit to Japan will be fruitful, full of lasting good memories.
I would now like to propose a toast to the good health of Your Majesties as well as to the happiness of the people of Malaysia.
Remarks by His Majesty the Emperor
at the State Banquet in Honor of
His Majesty King Mohammed VI
of the Kingdom of Morocco
The Imperial Palace Tokyo,
November 28, 2005
I wish to extend a heartfelt welcome to His Majesty King Mohammed VI of the Kingdom of Morocco, who is visiting Japan on a State Visit. It is a great pleasure for me to spend this evening here with you.
Your Majesty first visited Japan in 1987 on an Official Visit in your capacity as Crown Prince at the time. My father Emperor Showa hosted a banquet at the Imperial Palace, and Your Majesty had the opportunity to visit many places in Kyoto as well. We also invited Your Majesty to the Crown Prince's Residence on that occasion, and I fondly recall that we spent pleasant times together. I am grateful that Your Majesty attended the Funeral Ceremony of Emperor Showa two years later as Crown Prince, and Your Majesty's brother, His Royal Highness Prince Moulay Raschid, attended the Ceremony of my Accession to the Throne.
From Japan, the Crown Prince as well as Prince and Princess Takamado have visited Morocco, and I am grateful for the warm hospitality Your Majesty has graciously extended to each one of them.
This year, the EXPO 2005 AICHI JAPAN was held in Aichi Prefecture, and Her Royal Highness Princess Lala Salma attended the National Day event of Morocco as a Guest of the EXPO. The Empress and I pleasantly recall our meeting with the Princess at the Imperial Residence during her visit on that occasion. I am sure that the Moroccan pavilion which won the Nature's Wisdom Award at the EXPO has deepened many peoples' understanding of Morocco.
Morocco and Japan established diplomatic relations in 1956, the year that Morocco ceased to be a French protectorate and became an independent country. It was around that time in my youth that I developed an interest in Morocco. Your Majesty's grandfather, the late King Mohammed V, who, overcoming hardships and adversities including his life in exile, strove towards the goal of independence, is deeply engraved in my memory.
In the course of nearly half a century since the establishment of diplomatic relations, the two countries have maintained uninterrupted relations of friendship and cooperation, and I am happy to see that exchanges in various fields such as economic and cultural are advancing. When we were Crown Prince and Crown Princess, we met every year, at the Crown Prince's Residence, Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers who were going to be dispatched overseas in that year. I recall that there were many volunteers who were to be dispatched to Morocco.
Over the course of its long history, Morocco has accepted people with diverse cultural backgrounds and built the Kingdom of Morocco that exists today. Numerous buildings and archaeological ruins, including the town of Fez, have been designated as sites on the World Heritage List, and many tourists from Japan, among other countries, constantly visit Morocco.
In recent years, under the guidance of Your Majesty, Morocco has been making steady achievements in both domestic and diplomatic affairs, and I wish to express my respect for the high appraisal they have received in and outside Morocco. I sincerely hope that Your Majesty's visit to Japan will further enhance the friendly relations between our two countries.
Autumn is deepening in Japan and we are now enjoying beautiful foliage. I wish that Your Majesty's visit to Japan will be fruitful and full of lasting good memories.
I would like to conclude my remarks by making a wish for the good health of Your Majesty as well as for the happiness of the people of Morocco.