February 21, 2000
I am happy to be able to celebrate my fortieth birthday at the turning point of the year 2000. At the press conference on my birthday last year, I said that I felt that indeed many things had occurred in the previous year, and looking back on this past year, I once again feel that many things have occurred. First, focusing on the world, I think that on the one hand a new order has been emerging since the end of the Cold War, and on the other hand, regional conflicts have been breaking out and ethnic problems arising throughout the world.
Last year marked exactly a decade since the collapse of the Berlin Wall, and I find the collapse of the Berlin Wall a symbol of the end of the Cold War. I visited Berlin (west) two years before the collapse of the wall, but at the time I never thought that the Berlin Wall would come down so quickly. With that experience, I was deeply moved when I saw the images of the wall coming down and Beethoven's Ode to Joy resounding through the streets of Berlin.
I am extremely saddened by the fact that there are so many people, including innocent children, who fall victim to regional and ethnic conflicts. Looking back on the events of last year, I recall the occurrences in Kosovo, the problems in East Timor in Indonesia, and the circumstances in the Republic of Chechnya in the Russian Federation, as well as the continuing civil wars in African and other countries. I do hope that peace will soon prevail in these countries and regions.
Last year Portugal handed over Macao to China, and the United States handed over the Panama Canal to Panama. I feel that these are also landmark events in history.
Regarding natural disasters, there were large earthquakes in Turkey and Taiwan, and extremely heavy flooding in Central and South America. I sincerely pray for the swift recovery of these regions
As to events in Japan, I am very concerned about the severe economic situation and the issue of aging, as well the difficult circumstances for young people seeking employment and the unemployment issues. I am also very concerned about environmental issues, including industrial waste and dioxins, problems of juvenile delinquency and child abuse, and, more recently, the fact that serious crimes committed by youths are on the increase.
In terms of specific examples, I deeply regret the nuclear criticality accident at Tokaimura in Ibaraki Prefecture, for it was the first time in Japan that people became victims of a nuclear accident, and it is my hope that the safe use of nuclear energy will be ensured. Among other things, the first organ transplantation from a brain-dead patient in Japan and the abduction of Japanese persons in Kyrgyz also remain in my mind.
Further, in recent years we often see people walking the streets with cellular phones, and the fact that small-scale electrical equipment, including cellular phones, has become increasingly widespread has caught my attention in particular. I hear that cellular phones and other electrical devices are particularly prevalent among junior and senior high school students.
I offer my heartfelt congratulations to His Majesty the Emperor on the tenth anniversary of His Majesty's Accession to the Throne last year. I would like to fulfill my duties as Crown Prince keeping in mind how His Majesty spends each and every day working for the nation and the people of Japan. For my part, a decade has also passed since I became Crown Prince. With the increase in my official duties since I became Crown Prince, I feel that each and every one of these official duties has taken on greater importance, and I have the strong impression of shouldering greater responsibilities. Looking back over the past decade, although on the one hand I feel that it has gone by in an instant, on the other I do feel that it was one in which many things occurred. I sincerely wish to discharge my duties as Crown Prince, hoping to be of some assistance to His Majesty, and I will give consideration each and every day to what is of importance to the people of Japan, as well as to what extent I can accomplish my appointed tasks.
I feel that many Japanese people have been concerned for us. Fortunately, Masako has been recovering steadily, and this brings me more pleasure than anything. I would also like to express my great appreciation for the warm encouragement we have received from many people during this period, and for the many letters and other messages we have received even from people with whom we have never been acquainted.
Although regrettable, we were able to accept the outcome calmly. However, I do find it truly deplorable that in the process, at a highly uncertain stage before medical examinations had even taken place, a great amount of reporting was conducted, including reporting on areas which should remain part of an individual's privacy, as well as on things which were untrue. Amidst this, I noticed that Masako showed immense patience, and I hear that there were quite a few Japanese people who were themselves bewildered by the situation. I hope that in future such issues will be handled in a more prudent and considerate way, taking the nature of the matter into consideration.
Until she showed it to me, I did not even know that she had composed such a poem. On the day of the New Year Poetry Reading Ceremony, I did feel a little self-conscious, but I was so pleased that she had written her feelings for me into a poem. It has been seven years since we were married, and I am extremely grateful to Masako for supporting me as such a caring wife and partner during this time. When composing poems in years to come, we will have to make sure that "our words of the heart" that have grown deeper do not become transformed into quarrels.
I continue to be deeply interested in educational and environmental issues. I also think that these issues are of paramount importance to the Japan of today. I believe that it is extremely important to provide circumstances that enable young people to realize their potential and to work toward that goal while leading fulfilling lives. I hope that we will be able to nurture a great number of young people who have compassion for each other and see things from a wide perspective.
As for volunteer activities, recently I often hear of young people who have traveled abroad or are undertaking welfare activities with the desire to do something in disaster-stricken areas both in Japan and abroad, and to work for developing countries and their peoples. Having actually met and spoken with such people, I am strongly encouraged by the fact that there are so many young people who are willing to contribute to society.
Speaking personally, I myself belonged to a school circle known as the Research Group on Social Issues for a year or so as a senior high school student, and did a little study on social welfare and other issues. During that time, I paid visits to homes for the aged and helped in the early morning to clean up Mejiro Dori Street on which my school was located. This cleaning was carried out by a number of us on several mornings before other students arrived at school, and even now I consider it a rewarding experience. Even though sometimes we had to pick up filthy litter and we heard children passing behind us abuse us saying "these guys are fools," I felt a great sense of satisfaction in doing something useful.
Regarding the global environment, I feel that with global warming continuing unabated, we are now approaching a time where we must give earnest consideration to what we should do for the future of the world. I also think that returning the nature that has been lost to its former condition will prove difficult, and that resurrecting rare animals that have perished will be close to impossible. I remember reading somewhere the expression that "humans, animals and plants are all bound to the chains that link them," and I believe that seeking out a path on which all living things on Earth can live supporting each other hand in hand is of paramount importance for considering the future of humanity.
My birthday falls on 23 February, and I hear that various activities have taken place to revitalize our beautiful Mount Fuji on 23 February, which has been designated "Mount Fuji Day." (Note: 2-2-3, or 23 February, may also be pronounced in Japanese as fujisan," the Japanese reading for "Mount Fuji.") Recently while on vacation, I had the opportunity to gaze at Mount Fuji almost every day, and I cannot help but hope that this beautiful mountain will continue to sustain its glorious appearance.
I will also continue to maintain an interest in the activities of the young generation who will bear the responsibilities for Japan's future, spending each and every day continuing to keep my eye on the things outside my own field of research, in domestic and international circumstances, as well as on the things I have mentioned above.
This may well turn into a long conversation. I think that I may have mentioned this before, but what first attracted my interest to my present research was discovering that in the Kamakura Period a highway ran through the present-day Akasaka Imperial Palace Grounds. From that, I began to become interested in the roads on which people travel. Then I entered university and, thinking that since not so much research on maritime transport had been undertaken as on land transport and that it would be interesting to research this field, I wrote my graduation thesis on maritime transport. At the same time, since I lived in this same building together with His Majesty the Emperor, I could learn about the joys of seeking out the truth and the importance of doing so from His Majesty and also from Emperor Showa. I feel that there are great similarities between both the natural and human sciences.
I feel that they taught me the importance and pleasure of seeking out the truth independently of their own fields. Indeed, as I said earlier, I think that what first sparked my interest was roads, and this occurred from discovering that an old highway ran through the Palace Grounds, which in turn I decided to make the theme of my research. And with Emperor Showa conducting research on Hydroids and His Majesty the Emperor on gobiid fishes, perhaps our similar feelings about water were the reason for my maritime and water-borne transport research.
Nowadays I continue to take an interest in transportation in the Seto Inland Sea and along the Yodogawa River. The Gakushuin University Archives in which I do research have been entrusted with 600 historical documents from the family of Lord Saionji. These documents include archives dating back to medieval Japan, and I believe that introducing these documents will also form a very important part of my research. Therefore, I would like to delve into such research issues in addition to transportation on both the Yodogawa River and the River Thames. As you have asked, although there may be difficult aspects, it will bring me great pleasure if, by introducing transportation research themes and these unknown historical documents through various means, they can contribute to the academic world.