February 19, 2004
When I look back over the past year my heart is pained to think of the many people who lost their lives in the torrential rains and typhoons that occurred in summer last year in this country. In addition, due to the unusual weather conditions last year, the crops did not develop well, causing a great deal of hardship for farming communities.
Overseas, there were outbreaks of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), and domestically too there are still outbreaks of bird flu being seen, all of which have called to attention the emergence of new problems concerning the prevention of infectious diseases and food safety. To speak honestly, I was especially surprised to learn that diseases such as bird flu actually exist. I sincerely hope that such problems will be swiftly resolved.
On the other hand, overseas in Iraq the severity of the situation has worsened, and the many sacrifices of the lives the people of Iraq and those involved in the reconstruction of Iraq are truly saddening. In particular, the deaths of Ambassador Katsuhiko Oku of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs - he was studying at Oxford at the same time I was studying there myself - and First Secretary Masamori Inoue in November last year, who were both expending efforts towards the reconstruction of Iraq, were truly regrettable and I would like to express once again my sincere condolences. I pray with all my heart that peace will come quickly to Iraq and that the personnel of the Self-Defense Forces engaged in the reconstruction of Iraq will work for the people of Iraq while taking due care of themselves in a difficult situation.
I sincerely hope that the issue of the abductions by North Korea will move in a favorable direction towards resolution.
From December last year Princess Masako withdrew from official duties, and this has been a cause of concern for the people of Japan. I am truly grateful for the sympathies and good wishes that have been sent to her by so many people.
From the time of our marriage, Princess Masako entered a completely different environment, which she had never before encountered. In that new lifestyle, although it may not be understood from outside, I think that becoming accustomed to life at the Akasaka Palace entailed some hardship. She made every effort to apply herself to this new environment, and also engaged in her official duties. Although of course Their Majesties the Emperor and Empress have the heaviest duty and most important position, I think the pressure that comes from the special position of being Crown Princess is also very great.
Viewed from my perspective, I think that Princess Masako has come through all of this very well. I believe that we touched on this issue in our press conference prior to our visit to New Zealand and Australia, but the issue of the succession is one that has entailed a great deal of pressure in various forms. Happily, our child was born, and after a period of two months Princess Masako returned to her official duties, but in trying to carry out official duties together with raising a child, and responding to the various requests from the media concerning our child, I think she accumulated a great deal of fatigue. Although Princess Masako's official duties were reduced slightly after the birth of our child, she has striven not to show the tiredness that has accumulated, and I too have been worried. I think the pressure of the issue of the succession, which has come up again, was also a significant factor.
It is also very regrettable that nothing could have been done to prevent the contraction of herpes zoster, and I think that the onset of herpes zoster was a result of the fatigue that had accumulated. In any event, I would like her to forget everything and take a period of rest and relaxation, but in reality it is difficult to do such a thing. I would be most happy to receive the cooperation of the mass media, not to mention the Imperial Household Agency, in enabling Princess Masako to rest.
Although it may be some time before Princess Masako returns to her official duties, for my part, I will be by her side to offer encouragement, to give advice, and to do all I can to help her health improve. Moreover, the position of Crown Princess is one that requires good health, and from that point of view I think it will be necessary to examine the content and ideal form for Princess Masako's official duties in the future.
We are well aware of the importance of the issue of the succession, and hope that we will be able to live our lives in peace without pressure from those around us. I think it would be better if Princess Masako could go out with a little more freedom and be able to do a variety of things.
I am most grateful to Their Majesties the Emperor and Empress for calling on her and for their good wishes for Princess Masako's recovery.
Princess Aiko is growing quickly and is in good health. I am immensely thankful to all of the many people who have watched over her growth with such warmth.
Recently Princess Aiko is actively running and jumping about and her vocabulary is also gradually increasing. There are also a number of very sweet expressions that she uses, such that one wonders where she picked them up. As I said last year, I feel a sense of togetherness with my child when I feed her, take her for walks, play with her and bathe with her. It seems that a child naturally has different expectations for a mother and a father, and in that perspective I seek to do what I can as a father. I get the feeling that my child's perception is that her mother stays by her side, while her father plays with her, and in my case I think she is happy if I play with her a little. In Princess Masako's case, Princess Aiko seems to want to be with her mother as long as possible, and I believe that is all part of the hard work of being a mother. And as usual, the job of putting the baby to bed still falls to the mother.
Princess Aiko is learning various things as she grows and I think it is now necessary for her to receive care that is in line with her growth. In that sense, it is important to make sure that she learns that she is recognized by the people around her, which I think will led to a certain degree of confidence and peace of mind, not to mention the importance of ensuring that she can spend each day happily. In addition, in such a place as this it is easy for her to become isolated from the world around her and be deprived of various stimulating influences. Normally, in going about their daily life, such as going shopping together with their parents, children in ordinary surroundings come into contact with other children, see various things and receive various educational stimuli as they grow. In such a place as this, it is a tremendous challenge to create such an environment. One such attempt was when we took our child to the park last year. I feel, however, that it is very difficult to achieve a natural environment, given the fact that she always becomes the object of camera lenses. Whatever the case, I believe that it is now of particular importance for her "to interact with children of the same age," and we are providing such opportunities inside the Akasaka Palace. On such occasions Princess Aiko is happy to have the opportunity to play with her friends.
On the other hand it is also important for our child to sample the air outside the palace, and I think that it is necessary for her growth process for her to be taken outside, including to the park. Although it is necessary for us to respond to the expectations of the people of Japan who want to know about Princess Aiko's growth, it is a pity if our child becomes the object of press attention every time she ventures out. I would be most happy to receive your cooperation in warmly watching over her and collecting news material on her, in order that we can increase the opportunities for her to experience a regular life as a child.
Concerning the question about a second child, what I think is of prime importance at the moment is Princess Masako's recovery.
We are currently considering various possibilities for Princess Aiko's future education. Whatever we decide, our aim is for her to be able to look back and be glad that she was able to study at a particular school.
I offer my heartfelt congratulations to His Majesty on celebrating his 70th birthday last year.
His Majesty underwent surgery last year and although I had my worries, now, I am very pleased that His Majesty seems to be in good spirits. However, taking into account His Majesty's age, I think it is very important that the burden of his official duties be alleviated. At the same time, there are official duties that only the Emperor can perform, and I think that it is important that in those duties, people should consult with His Majesty, and proceed in accordance with His Majesty's wishes.
Concerning my relationship with His Majesty, I will continue to support His Majesty as Crown Prince. Although we are father and child, the relationship between Emperor and Crown Prince is a special one. I think it is therefore only natural that we should treat mutual communication with importance.
I am happy that in the course my fifteen years as Crown Prince, through my official duties I have been able to see Japan and the world, meet many people, and learn various things. Looking back on these fifteen years, the world has of course significantly changed, as has Japan. I believe that official duties are things that changes according to the age. In the midst of globalization, I think that there are official duties that we should initiate anew in accordance with the manner in which Japan is changing. Although there are official duties from previous times that we must treat with importance, I hope to be able to consider anew what official duties we are able to perform, adjusting them to a form that is appropriate to the times. I would like to take a long, hard look, together with the Imperial Household Agency, at what official duties the Crown Prince should perform in this day and age, and at what form such official duties should take.
During the time when they were Crown Prince and Crown Princess, Their Majesties involved themselves in the National Sports Games for the Disabled from the first time the Games were held, and this movement has blossomed into one that now includes the intellectually disabled, to become a sports event for all disabled people. This is one official duty that Their Majesties newly nurtured when they were Crown Prince and Crown Princess.
I would now like to turn to things in which I have an interest and my research. I believe that the issue of the global environment will become a very important one in the future. Last year the Third World Water Forum was held in and around Kyoto city, and at that forum a variety of water-related issues facing the world were debated. I was also able to serve as Honorary President of the Forum and I was surprised to learn of the plethora of issues concerning water. Of such issues, the fact that 1.1 billion people do not have access to a safe supply of water, that approximately 2.4 billion people do not have sewerage facilities, and that due to an inadequate water environment every eight seconds a child dies in the world provided great food for thought in Japan, a country in which is it easy to believe that water is a safe commodity. Through the World Water Forum I hope that many people in Japan have come to deepen their awareness concerning world water issues, and I am very happy to have been able to be involved in the Forum as a part of my official duties. I hope that through opportunities such as the World Water Forum, issues concerning water will move even a small way towards resolution. It is said that the 21st century will be the century of water, and for my part, I intend to deepen my understanding concerning the various issues on water in Japan and the world, and would be happy if I could be involved in some form with regard to this issue in the future.
At the World Water Forum the issue of water transport was taken up and I attended that session, and through my research into water transport I would like to deepen my understanding concerning water-related issues. Specifically, I would like to further advance my research on issues about which I gave a memorial speech at the Forum, namely water transport on the Yodo River in the middle ages, which linked the Seto Inland Sea with Kyoto, and water transport on the Thames River, which I researched when in the United Kingdom.
From an early age I have held a personal interest in "roads." By "roads," I mean both "water roads" and "land roads," and the theme of my research from my time at Gakushuin University was water transport on the Seto Inland Sea of Japan in the middle ages, and when I studied in the United Kingdom my research focused mainly on water transport on the Thames River in the 18th century. Currently at the Gakushuin University Archives where I work, I am pursuing research into the process of creation of drawings of oxcarts, and this is a research theme in which I am naturally interested from the perspective of land transportation.
In the broadest sense, I truly feel a deep magnetism toward such research on how transportation by sea, lake or river, or overland is related to the history of any country, its culture and the lives of its people, regardless of whether it be the Occident or the Orient. In addition, I hope to be able to trace such historical routes even only a short distance, be it by ship, or by actually walking along them.
Finally, talking about official duties, I think that it would be best if Princess Masako, when she is recovered, could utilize her experiences to date and find themes to which she can apply herself.
My forties crept up on me before I knew it and indeed I am now 44 years old. I consider that Emperor Showa must have gone through many hardships and did well to come through those tumultuous times. I believe that it must have been truly trying and difficult. When I think of the global situation and also the situation in Japan back then, I really feel that there is no comparison with the situation in which I currently find myself. In that sense I think it is something to be grateful for that we are no longer in such times and I feel keenly that Emperor Showa truly went through very difficult times. It is deeply moving to consider that Emperor Showa went through all those things at the age of 44.
Concerning the issue of "public and private," indeed the times are changing and with each generation concepts of "public" and "private" are changing. Whatever the age, however, I think that the most important thing for the Imperial Family is to perform their duties first and foremost for the happiness of the people, above and beyond personal hopes. Although I have probably not answered your question directly, that is my understanding of "public" and "private."