February 20, 2003
Looking back on this past year, I think there have indeed been many significant events. Domestically, the economic conditions have not been favorable and I am worried that there are many people who are suffering. The co-hosting of the 2002 FIFA World Cup by Japan and the Republic of Korea can be pointed out as a significant event of last year. It was the first time that the World Cup was co-hosted by two countries, and I thought it was an unparalleled opportunity for advancing mutual understanding between Japan and the Republic of Korea through the co-hosting of the event. Of course, it was wonderful that both Japan and the Republic of Korea were able to advance to the tournament round. On a related topic, recently there was the unfortunate incident of the subway trains' fire in the city of Daegu in the Republic of Korea in which many people died. I think that the people of Japan are also deeply saddened, and I would also like to express my own heartfelt condolences.
Furthermore, in regard to the issue of abduction of Japanese nationals, which has attracted a lot of attention on the occasion of the first ever visit to North Korea by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, it was good that five people were able to return to Japan. However, I thought afresh of how many people have suffered. I sympathize with the anxiety of the families of those whose whereabouts are still unknown. I cannot help but pray from my heart that the issue of abduction of Japanese nationals will move, if only a little, in a positive direction.
On another note, that both Mr. Masatoshi Koshiba and Mr. Koichi Tanaka were awarded the Nobel Prize was unforgettable news.
Meanwhile, when one looks at the world, the peace that was brought about by the conclusion of the Cold War lasted but a moment, and now, ethnic issues are erupting in various parts of the world. In addition, after the series of terrorist attacks in the United States of America on September 11 in the year before last, the anxiety of the people in regard to safety, and people's feelings that their safety is uncertain as seen by the terrorist activity in various parts of the world, have multiplied.
Furthermore, there are people who are suffering from hunger in various parts of the world, and it is difficult to foresee the situation in the Middle East. In the world today, there are many developments concerning the Republic of Iraq, and I cannot help but pray from my heart that we will soon see a world in which people can understand one another and live in safety.
The advancements in science and technology in recent years have been remarkable. I do not understand the technical details very well, but I am sure that technology is being developed which will be beneficial for humanity, such as the decoding of the human genome. Beginning with cloning technology, issues have been raised such as how will humanity utilize science and technology, to what extent, and what about safety? I think that much wisdom is being called for in the area of science and technology and related issues of technological development and ethical issues.
Finally, it was truly regrettable that His Imperial Highness Prince Takamado passed away last year.
I am very grateful and happy that His Majesty the Emperor safely underwent the operation and was discharged from the hospital. When I saw His Majesty the Emperor recently at the Imperial Residence, he looked very well and I am relieved that he has recovered so quickly. I think there were many difficulties for His Majesty since his operation, and he must have made great efforts to recover. Furthermore, I think that the devotion of Her Majesty the Empress, who nursed His Majesty close by with much devotion, must certainly have been a great encouragement to him. I would like to express my heartfelt respect for the courage shown by His Majesty when the doctors explained his illness and conveyed its contents accurately to the people.
I carried out the official duties of His Majesty on his behalf for approximately one month. This was an opportunity for me to learn about a part of the official duties of His Majesty the Emperor and I think I gained a renewed understanding of how busy His Majesty the Emperor is with his official duties. It is also a fact that there are certain official duties that can only be carried out by His Majesty the Emperor and not by any other members of the Imperial Family. I am not in a position to make any remarks regarding the sharing of official duties, but I would like to help if I can be of any use in my position. I believe what is important now is that the people around His Majesty the Emperor be very careful that he does become too heavily burdened after he recovers from his illness.
Thanks to the help of all those concerned, Princess Aiko is growing up steadily and free of illness. We believe it is very important for children to mix with other children of their own age group. Honestly speaking, Princess Aiko is in an environment that makes it difficult for her to interact with the outside world, and I think that this will prove to be one of our big challenges. But we have on occasion arranged this kind of opportunity, and we would like to arrange more such opportunities in the future. When Princess Aiko comes into contact with a child of her age or slightly older, her expression and behavior are absolutely wonderful―this is true of the other children too of course―and it makes me think that there is something that children understand among themselves. We are grateful that the Crown Prince's Household also recognizes importance of this.
In addition, and I may have said this before, we believe it is very important that parents consistently and fully show their affection during a child's infancy, as this will affect the child's life afterwards. We will concentrate on that for the time being, and leave the thought of brothers or sisters for later.
If I could take this opportunity to add a little more on the subject, through giving the princess a bath, taking her for walks or giving her baby food, I myself feel a strong bond with my child. There appears to be debate across the country about alleviating the burden of raising children for mothers, but the help of fathers in raising children wherever possible not only lightens the burden on mothers, but it is also a very good way for fathers to strengthen their relation with their children. I also strongly hope that the various systematized efforts that have been taken to lighten the burden on mothers will contribute to the wellbeing of children too.
I think that overseas goodwill visits are an important task for the Imperial Family. I have long understood that fostering friendly relations with foreign countries holds a significant place among the expectations that Japanese people have of the Imperial Household. As means of transport have advanced, the world has become smaller and smaller, and this has been accompanied by increased interaction between people. I believe that interactions between people eventually lead to the development of good relations between countries, and in that context, knowledge of the world is extremely important. This is not something that can be achieved overnight, but something that one builds up through making overseas visits. Late last year, the two of us were able to visit both New Zealand and Australia, and this was a wonderful opportunity in terms of broadening our knowledge. In this respect, I think the more such opportunities one has while young, the better. Of course, all of the above is on the condition that the Government takes a decision about our overseas visits.
Concerning Princess Masako, considering that she once had the ambition of working as a diplomat on the international scene, I think that being unable to make overseas goodwill visits for a number of years was very difficult for her. I feel that she has shown great forbearance in this.
On the one hand, I feel that it has already been ten years; on the other hand, I feel that it has only been ten years. I think that these ten years were a time during which I was able to look at myself through marriage, which was a new experience, and grow as a person as well.
I am grateful that we have been given a precious gift as we approach our tenth year of marriage. I am grateful that Princess Masako has helped me in many respects and has been a source of strength. I think that this has been a time of much joy and happiness, because the two of us, and recently the three of us, gained much experience, understood each other and supported each other.
In regard to the role of the Imperial Family, I have spoken of this in the past, but I will attend to my duties while helping His Majesty the Emperor and thinking about what I am able to do myself. I would like to be a part of the young generation, to which I believe I still belong, of the Imperial Family, by being sensitive to modern ways, while valuing what has been passed down from generation to generation. I would like to undertake activities which befit the Imperial Family in the 21st century while constantly searching for the ideal attitude as a member of the young generation of the Imperial Family.
I think that there are many significant issues, and I hope that the two of us can be involved in advancing mutual understanding between people of different countries and in environmental issues, both of which are important for promoting world peace, and in creating a society where children can grow up in good health, which is indispensable for seeking the happiness of the Japanese people and the rest of humanity.
At around the end of last year, Princess Aiko made her first steps, and from this year she has been able to walk some distance. Just watching, I was amazed at how quickly a child grows. To give you one example, I believe we made an announcement earlier that Princess Aiko had walked three or four meters, but that very evening, we found she could walk about three times that distance. As I mentioned earlier, I was surprised anew at just how quickly children grow. When a child learns to walk, its sphere of activity expands, and now she is opening desk drawers, and she wants to reach out and touch things she has never touched before. She is extremely curious and gradually, to tell the truth, it is getting to the point where she must be watched at all times. Just seeing her grow every day makes us so happy as parents. I pray for the continued healthy growth of our child.
In regard to your second question, I think it is quite difficult, but I would like to discover and create more opportunities for her to interact with children of the same age. It is of course important to create such opportunities within the Togu Palace too, but I think it is very important for a child to go outside and interact, and moreover, the outside world can provide the kind of stimulation that is not available indoors. In that respect, exactly what kind of things we should do is something that we shall think about, and we are also considering in what way we would like to realize this.