December 5, 2002
Foremost of all, I would like to state that I was incredibly surprised at the sudden passing of His Imperial Highness Prince Takamado. Even now, it is hard for me to believe that he is gone. I can only imagine the grief felt by Her Imperial Highness Princess Takamado and the three princesses. From the time that I was very young, right up until his death, His Imperial Highness Prince Takamado constantly watched over me warmly, and at times, provided me advice on various matters, and was indeed like an older brother to me. His death was truly regretful. As a member of the Imperial Family, he was really active in various areas and I feel that he was an important bridge linking the Imperial Family to the people. From my heart I hope that he may rest in peace.
Responding to the first question, last year I made an official visit to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland by myself. I am very glad indeed that on this visit to Australia and New Zealand for the first time in eight years that we will go together and as such, I am greatly looking forward to this visit. During recent years, relations between both Australia and New Zealand have grown closer in many areas and I will be indeed glad if in some small way our visit could further promote the friendly relations of goodwill between Japan and both nations.
I believe that the very significance of goodwill visits is to deepen mutual understanding. I hope that through this visit and by meeting people from various fields we will be able to deepen our understanding of both countries. Furthermore, we would be very happy if our visit helps to increase understanding of Japan in both nations.
I have learned many things through my visits abroad and I believe that those visits have helped to broaden my perspective. All of my visits have been excellent experiences for me. Also, when we make visits together, I see many things that I would have overlooked had I been traveling on my own and for that reason as well, I feel that such visits are extremely fruitful. I felt that very strongly at the time of our last visit to countries around the Persian Gulf. For that reason as well, I hope that in the future there will be more frequent occasions for the two of us to visit foreign countries together.
As for your question about how I "express myself," I believe that one can best express oneself when one is in a natural state.
Furthermore, there were some Japanese nationals who died in the bombing terrorism incident that occurred in Bali, Indonesia. There were many Australian victims of that incident and several New Zealanders died as well. We wish to express our heartfelt condolences for those victims. That is all I have to say.
As you said in your question, this is the first time in eight years that we will be going on an official visit and I am very happy that we will be able to visit Australia and New Zealand and am looking forward to this visit. I still fondly remember our visit to countries in the Middle East, which was a truly wonderful experience. Even now His Imperial Highness the Crown Prince and I often speak of our memories of the trip. Already eight years have passed since then. During the most recent two years I was pregnant, gave birth and have been raising my baby. In my life before we married, and in my family as I was growing up, there were many occasions to travel abroad and such occasions came to be a part of my life. As such, honestly speaking, during the six years after our previous trip abroad, the fact that it was rather difficult to make visits abroad was something that required a great effort on my part to adapt to.
Now, one year after the birth of our daughter Aiko, I am indeed very grateful that thanks to the efforts of those involved, we will be able to make visits to Australia and New Zealand. Furthermore, Their Majesties the Emperor and Empress visited both countries during the 1970s and I have heard stories about those visits from Their Majesties. When we visited them at the Imperial Residence, despite their busy schedules, Their Majesties showed us albums of photographs of those visits and told us many things about those trips and I feel very grateful for their warm thoughtfulness. I have heard that the people of both nations are warm and that the people of those countries are characterized by a warm and large-hearted nature. I look forward to meeting many people and deepening our understanding of the people of both nations. Then I hope that we will be able to make our stay there fruitful.
First, if I may speak about Australia, I visited there in the summer of my third year of junior high school, which would be back in 1974, and nearly 30 years have passed since then. It was the first trip abroad that I took and even now I remember this experience very clearly. My first impressions of Australia were about how vast the country was and how warmhearted Australians were. I also remember the great natural environment of the country. During my time in Australia, I had a homestay experience with an Australian family, which turned out to be a beautiful memory of that visit, and a good experience for me. I am looking forward to renewing my old friendships during the upcoming visit to Australia. Furthermore, considering that nearly 30 years have passed, and that I myself have changed, I am sure that great changes have taken place in Australia. For that reason as well, I am looking forward to taking a good look at the current situation in Australia.
During this visit, we will go to Sydney and Canberra. The year before last, the Olympic Games were held in Sydney and I look forward to seeing how Sydney is now after it hosted the Olympic Games. Furthermore, I have heard that Canberra has changed greatly over these 30 years and I am looking forward to seeing that for myself.
Next, as I said earlier, the relations between Japan and Australia have grown even closer in recent times, and I am looking forward to seeing the various aspects of such close relations between Japan and Australia. One thing that I want to see is how technological cooperation is being conducted between Japan and Australia and I understand that we will actually be visiting a site where technological cooperation is ongoing. Another thing that I am looking forward to seeing is how the Japanese language is being learned there. On my trip nearly 30 years ago when I was in Canberra, I stayed at the residence of the Governor-General of Australia and during that time, a luncheon was organized to which Australian junior high school students studying Japanese attended, and I had an opportunity to speak with them over lunch. At that time, I could strongly feel that the level of enthusiasm for studying Japanese was rising. As such, I am truly looking forward to seeing for myself what level of interest there is in Japanese and in Japan in today's Australia.
In addition, I understand that there is a program called JET (Japan Exchange and Teaching Programme) and that from both Australia and New Zealand, Assistant English teachers are invited to Japan. I am looking forward to an opportunity for meeting with people who have previously been in Japan on the JET Programme.
Furthermore, although we will not be able to go there, the Great Barrier Reef is located in Australia and there are many other precious natural environments. As we enter this century of the environment, I am personally very interested in learning how the people of Australia are going about protecting their natural environment and what their thoughts on the environment are.
I also hope to have an opportunity to deepen my understanding of the unique culture of Australia, naturally including the culture of the Aborigines.
This will be my first visit to New Zealand and first of all, I look forward to finding out just what kind of country New Zealand is. Also, I am looking forward to experiencing the vast nature of New Zealand, including a close view of Mount Cook, its highest peak, and as I said regarding our visit to Australia, I hope to learn how New Zealanders think about their precious natural environment and what they are doing to conserve it. I also want to see how relations are between New Zealand and Japan and hope to deepen my understanding of the Maori culture in New Zealand.
Furthermore, leading up to this visit, Their Majesties the Emperor and Empress showed us an album of photographs from the visit they made to Australia and New Zealand in 1973 and spoke to us of those visits. Also, in 1980 my younger brother His Imperial Highness Prince Akishino visited New Zealand and we have been able to hear many stories of that trip. All of these have been very useful as reference to prepare for this coming visit.
Regarding the preparations for our child, although we will be away from Japan for about nine days, the preparations for her day both prior to our departure and after we have left are precisely as we have done in the past. Specifically, we have already made visits to regions within Japan on several occasions. As such, I think that it will be fine if we do as we have done on those occasions. In addition, although it is true that we will be away for a while, in the past, the staff members who have taken care of our child during our trips within Japan have done such a wonderful job, so we are sure that we can rely on them.
That is all I have to say.
This will be my first visit to Australia and New Zealand and I am really looking forward to visiting those countries.
In recent years, cooperation and a great closeness has built up between Japan and both Australia and New Zealand, as we are all members of the Asia-Pacific region. This closeness has revealed itself in a variety of fields, and human exchanges in particularly are taking place. His Imperial Highness the Crown Prince has already touched upon this, but many young people come to Japan to teach the English language on the JET Programme. I hear that now many young people from Japan are also visiting Australia and New Zealand, be it either for tourism or as has recently been the case, on a working holiday. Given this situation and also the fact that I have already mentioned, that the people of the two countries are very warm, gentle and friendly, I truly hope that I will be able to meet with many different people and deepen mutual understanding with them. What is more, on our visit to New Zealand, we will be visiting the rugged terrain of fjords of the South Island, and I am greatly looking forward to communing with such pure and expansive nature.
I believe that during our visit we are scheduled to visit a museum and be shown some of the history of the original inhabitants of New Zealand, the Maori, and I am also looking forward to these programs.
We will also be visiting a children's hospital, and I think the plan of visiting a facility for children was arranged given the fact that our own child is still small, or rather really only just born. If we can visit that hospital and encourage the children who are hospitalized there, if I can only do this small work, I will be delighted.
Concerning Aiko, who we will be leaving behind in Japan, as His Imperial Highness the Crown Prince has already mentioned, I will try to deal with it as we have done before. After His Imperial Highness the Crown Prince was born, Their Majesties the Emperor and Empress left for an overseas visit when he was only six to seven months old, and I am sure that Her Majesty must have worried a great deal. I hear that Their Majesties arranged many things so His Imperial Highness was in good health while they were away for a long time. Fortunately, Aiko has already reached her first birthday and is now more or less established in her daily rhythm. As His Imperial Highness has already said, we have already made several trips within Japan and Aiko has the experience of us being away, and seems to cope just with such circumstances. Besides, there are staff members who will take good care of her and I am truly grateful that I am able to leave Aiko in their care with such peace of mind.
That concludes my response.
Your question is a matter related to the law and has political significance as well. As such, I will refrain from making any comment on that.
For my part, although this may not be a direct response, I would like to say that as her mother, it is my heartfelt wish that Aiko shall lead a happy life.
Because various circumstances have changed since bearing a child, it is now difficult to remember some things from the past. However, I do remember that the expectations of the people of Japan have taken various forms and among these of course was the hope for a child. On the other hand, there were also expectations for us to engage in engendering international goodwill through overseas visits in the course of our official duties. I believe that in those days it was necessary for me to consider where I should place my priorities and what was most important to me.
After our marriage, I had many opportunities to visit the regions of Japan and in my life to that point I had not really had the experience of visiting the various prefectures of Japan except for limited opportunities for private holidays to tourist spots. The opportunity that I had after our marriage to travel domestically to various regions of Japan and be shown the culture, foods, facilities and other things in those places, has helped me to deepen my understanding about many things and is for me a most important treasure.
Of course, here in Japan we welcome guests from overseas, and meet with guests from overseas who Their Majesties the Emperor and Empress receive, and in this way my connection with people from other countries has continued. I am most grateful for being able to take this trip, our first official overseas visit for some years. I almost forgot to mention the other visits that we have made in an unofficial capacity, such as to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan for His Majesty King Hussein's funeral, and to the Kingdom of Belgium for the wedding of His Royal Highness Prince Philippe. I am also grateful to have made such visits.