February 21, 2006
Various events have taken place over the past year, both domestically and abroad. First, about the damage from the snow this winter, I am saddened that there were so many victims of this disaster. I would like to express my heartfelt sorrow for those who lost their lives, and to extend my sincere sympathy to those who suffered damage from this disaster.
Last June, Their Majesties The Emperor and Empress visited Saipan in the 60th year after the end of the World War II. There they mourned and paid tribute to all those who died in the War and wished for world peace. I was deeply moved in seeing them pray for the dead from the depths of their hearts.
I am very happy that the 2005 World Exposition, Aichi, Japan (EXPO 2005) which was held from March to September of last year, welcomed many guests, both from Japan and abroad, and closed successfully. In the past I have visited world expositions in Osaka in 1970 and in Sevilla, Spain in 1992. However, I believe that EXPO 2005, also known as the Exposition of Global Harmony, was different from these two, bringing environmental issues to the forefront as its theme and introducing the relevant measures taken by various countries. As a result, many people thought about our planet's future and it served as a good opportunity for people to learn about the environment together. While the Tower of the Sun symbolized the world exposition in Osaka, I feel that the forest where the venues were located symbolized the Exposition of Global Harmony. All in all, I think it was a very meaningful exposition.
I am also happy that in July Shiretoko was registered as the third Natural World Heritage site in Japan. In particular, I recall the times when I was touched by the splendor and profoundness of Nature while climbing Mt. Rausu with Princess Masako on the occasion of our visit to Shiretoko in 1994, the year following our marriage, and I earnestly hope that the rarity of the ecosystem of Shiretoko will be widely appreciated by many people, and that nature in this region will be cherished for many years to come.
In November my younger sister Sayako got married. At the time I felt a slight sense of loneliness over Sayako leaving the Imperial Family, but as her elder brother, I was and am extremely happy to see her seem so happy. I think she is, although gradually, adapting to her new lifestyle, and I wish her long-lasting happiness.
I am saddened that much recent news involves children falling victim to crimes and disasters. Children from ages past have been referred to as the treasures of the world. I sincerely wish for the world to be a place where children may grow up with peace of mind and in good health. I believe that it is an important responsibility for adults and society to create a good environment for children.
The recent news that Princess Akishino is showing signs of pregnancy is very pleasant news to us. When Prince Akishino called to tell me the news, I congratulated him and asked him to convey to Princess Akishino my best wishes for her to take good care of herself. I think it is still not the time to make an official announcement, and so I believe what is important now is to maintain a quiet environment for her. Princess Masako and I both wish from the bottom of our hearts that all goes well for her.
From time to time I have been watching on TV the Olympic Games currently being held in Turin. Sometimes I record the games and watch them together with Princess Aiko. I think of the four years of strenuous practice the athletes have endured in order to enter the Olympics, and I wish them the best of luck.
Princess Aiko is now four years old and she will attend Gakushuin Kindergarten starting this April. I would like to take this opportunity to express my heartfelt gratitude to many people who are warmly watching over her. This year, she is experiencing various things through group activities with other children around her own age at the "National Children's Castle," and I think it has been a good opportunity for her to receive various educational stimuli. Furthermore, at my residence she continues to have gymnastic lessons and study music when the "National Children's Castle" is closed. I believe that engaging in activities with children of a slightly different age range is also meaningful.
Recently, she often plays games such as iroha-garuta and shinkei suijaku, and like the previous year, at this New Year's she pounded mochi, played Japanese card games, flew a kite, and played with a top. I believe Princess Aiko has been able to experience traditional Japanese play. Last year, through growing vegetables in the garden, I think that she was able to experience the joy of watching vegetables grow and then harvesting them. I was impressed to see her go down to the garden to water the plants every day. Now she is looking forward to picking strawberries. She took the products of her garden to Their Majesties The Emperor and Empress or gave them to friends, and she seems to enjoy sharing things with everyone.
I sometimes catch glimpses of her thoughtfulness toward us and the people around her. Even on the evening of the birthday of Princess Masako last December when Princess Masako was in bed with a cold, she visited Princess Masako's bedroom, bringing the Princess' birthday cake, in order to express her gratitude for the care that she had received when she had caught a cold before that. It also appears that at the "National Children's Castle" she lends a hand to children who are younger than her, saying, "When I could not do it, such and such a person helped me."
It is worth pointing out that on New Year's Day this year when we were going to the Imperial Palace, it seems that she saw all the reporters and other people standing at the gate and said, "Everyone is standing out in the cold, so I will wave my dog's paw at them."
She is also very interested in sumo wrestling. When she wrestles with us or our staff members, she reenacts the sumo wrestling techniques. She also reads the names of sumo wrestlers in kana in a book about sumo, and remembers well the first and last names of sumo wrestlers. For example, she remembers Yokozuna Asashoryu as "Asashoryu Akinori." She sometimes writes these names in hiragana. To be honest, she is better than me when it comes to the names of sumo wrestlers. When she watches sumo matches on TV, she comes up with phrases like, "Dare dare ni hoshi ga tsuita yo. Ureshiina. (I am happy that such and such a wrestler won.)" in seven-and-five syllable meter. I want to watch lovingly over her eagerness and independence, while cherishing her childlike curiosity and humor.
At the same time, I have heard that self-assertiveness gets stronger at the age of four. Nevertheless, the rules and manners of society are important, and I believe that it is important to gradually teach her and have her gain an understanding of these things. It is probably necessary to also share information about raising children with parents in our generation while valuing the advice of the generation of our parents, who have vast experience in parenting.
I believe that excursions are good chances for Princess Aiko to get to know the outside world. She also has more opportunities to greet guests when they visit our residence. From time to time we visit the Imperial Palace, and Princess Aiko appears to be always looking forward to going. She will be entering kindergarten shortly, and we would like to treasure the time that we have until then and allow her to have as much different experience as possible.
With regard to the education that Princess Aiko will receive as a member of the Imperial Family, I think it should be considered at a slightly later stage. At the time when I myself entered kindergarten, I believe that there was emphasis on my growing up as an individual child. Nevertheless, I remember that when I entered kindergarten, which was the first place where I experienced group learning, my parents, now Their Majesties The Emperor and Empress, went out of their way to help me in various ways. In particular, it seemed that they thought about various things such as the development of my physical strength so that I could have fun playing with other children after I entered kindergarten. This included things like having me jump, skip, run, or climb trees. They trusted the school policies, and I am grateful to them for entrusting the schools with everything.
My memories of my first year of kindergarten are fragmentary, but I still have them, so I am deeply moved by the fact that our child is approaching this age. Princess Masako is also devoted to child rearing, and we make sure that we have many opportunities to discuss things together. From here on, we will respect the educational policies of the teachers at Gakushuin Kindergarten, and hope that through playing with children of her own age at kindergarten Princess Aiko will learn various things including the rules of society and that she will grow up in good health.
I believe Princess Masako has been making gradual but steady progress towards recovery. I would like to take this opportunity to express my heartfelt gratitude to Their Majesties The Emperor and Empress and the many people of Japan for warmly watching over her. In December last year, the comments of the doctors were made public to help the people of Japan to understand the latest condition of Princess Masako, namely, the name of her illness and her course of treatment, her current condition and the problems to be faced; the publicizing of the comments was based solely on the professional judgment of the doctors. I, too, of course respect their judgment. Princess Masako is making efforts in line with the course of treatment prescribed by the doctors, and I will continue to support her. Princess Masako seriously considers her role as a member of the Imperial Family as well as the future of the Imperial Family, and has so far been making efforts. She continues to think and conduct herself in this way, and I am also supported by this. I believe that the doctors' comment which recommended an improvement in the environment will be meaningful in furthering our efforts in that direction.
I personally think it would be wonderful if Princess Masako is able to find something for a lifework which incorporates her experiences to date. This is because I myself have so far been doing research mainly on the history of water transport, and I believe the way in which this is becoming my "lifework" has been a great help to me in carrying out various activities. In addition, physical activities including horse riding and tennis which Princess Masako has been doing as part of her treatment seem to have a positive effect, and I hope she will continue with these activities.
While fortunately Princess Masako is recovering steadily, I hope people will understand that she is still on the road to recovery and they will quietly and warmly watch over her.
Since I spoke of my thoughts on official duties at last year's press conference, I will not go into details this time. The official duties that have been carried out until now have had their own respective significance, and I intend to continue to cherish them. However, at the same time, taking into consideration that to date the members of the Imperial Family have performed official duties that were in line with the needs of the times, or in some cases ahead of the times, I think we need to earnestly consider what can be done in the present time and what we, our generation, are best positioned to do. Of course I believe that such things will become clear to us while we perform our official duties. I would like to add, in this regard, that a statement I once made at a previous press conference was partially misunderstood to suggest that I intended to stop carrying out certain official duties which have been performed in the past, but that was certainly not the case.
Regarding Princess Masako's official duties, it seems that this will be considered a bit later when her condition improves and she undertakes various activities in both her public and private lives. I would also like to ask people to understand that although Princess Masako has recently carried out certain official duties, these were undertaken partly as a step towards recovery.
I am aware that the Advisory Council on the Imperial House Law has issued its final report and I am aware of its content. There are various things to consider as a parent, but I wish to refrain from making any further comment. As I have been saying all along, I believe that the ideal role of the Imperial Family is to assist His Majesty The Emperor, hope for the happiness of the people of Japan and try to share the joys and sorrows of the people, while respecting the traditions of the Imperial Family. I believe this is something that will remain from generation to generation. We cherish the ritual ceremonies of the Imperial Family, but I think Princess Masako will take part in these ceremonies after she becomes able to carry out her usual official duties.
I would like Princess Aiko to have an exemplary upbringing as a single individual. As her name suggests, I hope she will grow into a person who loves others and is loved by others.
So far the sports we have watched together include snowboard cross and speed skating and the giant slalom. She seems to be watching with keen interest.
I am not sure myself as to how much Princess Aiko is aware of, but it seems that she is starting to understand little by little that she is going to attend kindergarten starting this April, somewhere different from where she has been so far. Also, I can sense that she is looking forward to attending kindergarten from what she says on various occasions.
With Princess Aiko entering kindergarten, as a parent one of my greatest concerns was indeed about which kindergarten would truly be best for her happiness, and in the process I sought advice from various people and I really assessed various things.
As a result, I reached the conclusion that Gakushuin Kindergarten after all is the best place for Princess Aiko to learn about various things from here on. I am very pleased that Gakushuin Kindergarten has accepted her.
Well, the first scene that comes to mind is the day of her wedding. This is the impression I got as I watched how the two interacted that day. Furthermore, I met with them on some occasions after their wedding, and from their various conversations and from how they really interacted with each other, I got the impression that she was truly happy.