Press Conference by His Imperial Highness The Crown Prince on the Occasion of His Birthday (2016)
Over the past year there were once again many natural disasters, including the volcanic eruption of Mount Shin-dake on the island Kuchinoerabu-jima in May and the heavy rainfall caused mainly by Typhoon No. 18 (Etau) in Ibaraki, Tochigi and Miyagi prefectures in September. Overseas too, the emergence of what is said to be the largest El Nino phenomenon in recorded history has also had an impact on the occurrence of many floods and droughts in various regions around the world, in addition to which other disasters, including major earthquakes in Nepal and Taiwan, have inflicted major damage on the people. I am deeply saddened when I think of the hardships that have been endured by those who suffered damage in such natural disasters. I would like to express my heartfelt condolences to those who lost their lives in these disasters, and my deepest sympathies to those who have been affected.
In March five years will have passed since the Great East Japan Earthquake. In October last year, Masako and I made a visit to Fukushima Prefecture for the first time in two years. There we had the opportunity to see the stage of progress in reconstruction, and we both felt once again that the road to reconstruction will continue for a long time to come. At the same time, we were truly delighted and strongly encouraged to meet the people who are seeking for an even better Fukushima Prefecture than before the disaster, including people from an agricultural produce company in Iwaki City who have been making effort to overcome unfounded rumors by producing high quality vegetables and expanding sales networks. There are also young people who endured the hardship of having to leave their hometowns after the disaster and were forced to move about from place to place. Masako and I will continue to keep in our thoughts the sadness and hardships faced by each and every one of the people affected, and while praying for the wellbeing and happiness of all those living in difficult straits we will maintain our heartfelt interest for years to come in the reconstruction in the affected regions.
Last year was also the milestone 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War. Throughout the year various events were held relating to the last war, both at home and overseas, and this provided an opportunity for all people, including those who experienced the war themselves and those who did not, to reflect once again on the tragedy of war and the preciousness of peace.
Their Majesties the Emperor and Empress visited the Republic of Palau in April last year, followed by a visit to the Republic of the Philippines last month. In those countries Their Majesties made a heartfelt tribute and paid their respects to all those who lost their lives in the war. Together with Masako and Aiko, I watched the appearance of Their Majesties and we were once again deeply moved by Their Majesties’ strong desire for peace. I thus renewed my resolve that their thoughts should be carried forward properly by those of us in the next generation.
In both July and August I was accompanied by Masako and Aiko on visits to special exhibitions and other events relating to the 70th anniversary of the end of the war. At these events various exhibits were held and lectures took place to ensure that the memories of the war never fade, but continue to be talked about by the next generation and generations thereafter. All of these provided an excellent opportunity to learn more about past history and deepen our understanding of the background that led to war, and the horrors of wartime and the extraordinary efforts of the people to recover from post-war devastation. It gave me also an opportunity to think seriously about the significance of peace.
Considering matters at home and overseas over the past year that made an impression upon me, I am concerned when I see reports about the various social issues that Japan is facing as structural changes in society continue. This includes the declining birthrate and the aging of society. On the other hand, when I participated in the 23rd World Scout Jamboree which was held in Yamaguchi Prefecture in August last year, I was encouraged to see more than 34,000 young people from 155 countries and regions who transcended their nationalities and faiths in order to exchange views with one another. I think that we live in the era in which it is important for individuals to work together to create a society in which all people, including the young people like those who attended the jamboree and who are the hope for tomorrow, can live with peace of mind.
In terms of events overseas, issues such as terrorism, poverty and increasing numbers of refugees overshadows the lives of people, and in order to find a solution to such issues the international community is required to engage together in cooperation. Against this backdrop, I was very pleased when in September last year the United Nations adopted the Sustainable Development Goals that set the agenda for the world towards 2030, and then in December, the Paris Agreement, which sets out a framework for global warming countermeasures from 2020, was adopted in Paris shortly after the city had suffered from terrorist attacks. Issues such as climate change, environmental conservation and poverty continue to be challenges that humanity must tackle through concerted action, and from now I believe that each country is required to cooperate towards the realization of a sustainable society.
There was also happy news this year. In the field of academia, Dr. Satoshi Omura was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine and Dr. Takaaki Kajita was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics. Prior to that, in November, Japan’s first-ever domestically manufactured passenger jet successfully completed its first flight. Incidentally, when I was in the sixth grade of elementary school, my first-ever flight was in the YS11, the first aircraft to be produced in Japan since the end of the war. Then in December a research team from RIKEN was recognized by an international scientific organization as having discovered a new element, the 113th on the periodic table. These achievements demonstrate that Japanese science and technology, from fundamental research through to practical applications, continues to stand at the forefront of global science and technology and I believe that they will be a great source of encouragement to young researchers who are considering academic careers.
Also, in the field of sport, the performance of the Japan men’s rugby team in the Rugby World Cup and the Japan women’s rugby team’s splendid acquisition of a place at the Olympic Games were both very good and I look forward to their future success.
In terms of events in the Imperial Family, last year His Imperial Highness Prince Mikasa marked his 100th birthday and His Imperial Highness Prince Hitachi saw his 80th birthday come around, and I am truly happy that they both welcomed their birthdays in good health. I offer my heartfelt prayers that they both continue to live long, healthy lives.
Finally, I would like to say a few words about water-related issues, in which I have been involved over recent years.
Since 2007 I have been fortunate to serve as the Honorary President of the United Nations Secretary-General’s Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation (UNSGAB), in which capacity I have attended meetings of UNSGAB and other international conferences, such as the World Water Forum, where I have delivered lectures and engaged in other activities. At the end of last year, on the occasion of the submission to the United Nations Secretary-General of the final report of UNSGAB I visited New York, where I delivered a keynote lecture to the second United Nations Special Thematic Session on Water and Disasters and also attended the final meeting of UNSGAB, thus bringing to a conclusion my term of office as Honorary President. Last year the United Nations adopted the new Sustainable Development Goals and I hope that in accordance with these new goals the international community will work together to advance efforts to ensure that all people can have access to safe water and sanitation facilities. For my part, I would like to continue to make any contribution I can towards that goal.
In addition, disasters due to heavy rains caused by abnormal weather patterns have been occurring with increasing regularity in recent years, and earthquake and tsunami-related disasters could also strike in the future. I would like to continue to remain involved in water-related disaster issues from the perspective of disaster prevention and mitigation in response to such disasters.
Masako continues to take care of her health while receiving medical treatment, and has continued making efforts to discharge her public and private duties to the extent that she can. Masako has always had a strong sense of responsibility towards her public activities and I feel that as she gradually expands the scope of her activities, her condition will improve accordingly, although she is still subject to ups and downs. Then I understand that it is a result of this gradual improvement that Masako has been able to expand her activities one step at a time, including the visit to the Kingdom of Tonga, the consecutive visits to Fukushima Prefecture followed by Kagoshima Prefecture, and the attendance at the autumn garden party. Here at the Residence too, Masako participates in public functions as far as possible and I am delighted that both in public and private she is a source of support for me, as well as watching warmly over the daily activities and growth of Aiko.
In this way, although it is certainly the case that Masako's condition is improving, I hope that at a measured pace, she will carefully continue to broaden gradually the scope of her activities. I would once again like to express my heartfelt appreciation to the people of Japan for their warm and caring thoughts and hope that the people will continue to watch over her recovery in a kindly manner.
Aiko is now in her second year of junior high school and her circle of friends has also further expanded as each day she enjoys a fulfilling school life. It appears that as she has moved up a grade, her academic work has increased in difficulty both in terms of quantity and quality and she seems to be also busy with her academic studies. She showed great interest in various projects relating to the 70th anniversary of the end of the war and after joining us in visiting related exhibitions and other events she engaged enthusiastically in school work on this subject, including looking up various things for herself in newspaper articles and watching special television programs. Seeing this, I think that her consciousness as a junior high school student has further developed. Also, at the seaside school in Numazu I hear that her swimming skills have improved dramatically, as she was able to complete the 3 km long-distance swimming course. Aiko is also gradually increasing her attendance at public events. I hope that she will look back on the things she has accomplished and cherish each and every opportunity she has to further broaden her outlook.
With regard to the future and advancement to high school, I would like to respect Aiko’s own wishes as much as possible. I hope that she will learn things from those around her and accumulate various experiences that will help her to follow firmly the path that she wants to take. I hope that in this process she will also deepen her understanding about the duties of the Imperial Family.
Over the course of many years, hoping for the happiness of the people of Japan, and trying to share their joys and sorrows, Their Majesties have fulfilled their various duties, spending every day engaged busily in their activities. While concerned about the health of Their Majesties, it is my heartfelt hope that they will not over-exert themselves and remain in good health for many years to come. For my part, and based on the wishes of Their Majesties, I would be only too happy to do anything I could, no matter how small it might be, if it would be of some help to Their Majesties. From last year Prince Akishino and I have taken over the visits to related facilities on the occasion of Children’s Day and Respect for the Aged Day. As Their Majesties have devoted such heartfelt care and attention to each and every one of such duties, I would like to do as much as I possibly can, while keeping Their Majesties feelings uppermost in mind.
March this year will mark five years since the Great East Japan Earthquake. I would like once again to offer my deepest condolences to many people who lost their lives in the disaster and express my heartfelt sympathies to those who were affected. On each of the visits that Masako and I have made to the disaster-affected regions we have been saddened to see so many people still living in difficult conditions. Reconstruction is still ongoing and it is my hope that the day-to-day activities of the people affected will be improved without delay and that they can regain peace of mind in their lives.
At the same time, it is also a fact that on each of our visits we do see signs that reconstruction is progressing steadily, though gradually. In particular, last year we spoke with the high school students of Futaba Future School in Hirono Town in Fukushima Prefecture. Listening to these members of the younger generation talk, I was left with the deep impression that they have firm future-oriented ideas about how they themselves can contribute to regional reconstruction and further development, and that they are taking positive steps to that end. I found this very encouraging.
Together with Masako, our thoughts reach out to the sadness and hardships faced by each and every one of the people affected, and while praying for the wellbeing and happiness of all those living in difficult straits we will take a serious interest for years to come in reconstruction in the affected regions. We also wish to continue to look for opportunities to visit the affected regions.
In the milestone year of the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War I visited various exhibitions and heard stories about the war, through which I recognized once again that in the Second World War many precious lives were lost in countries around the world, including in Japan, and even more people experienced sufferings and tremendous sadness. In addition to feeling great sadness, I also thought deeply about the tragedy of war and the preciousness of peace. I also felt strongly that we should learn the lessons of history and ensure that such a tragic war never occurs again.
Their Majesties the Emperor and Empress visited the Republic of Palau in April last year and also visited the Republic of the Philippines in January this year. On those visits Their Majesties made a heartfelt tribute and paid their respects to all those who lost their lives in the war, regardless of nationality, and also demonstrated to the world their strong desire for peace. We too share Their Majesties’ desire to think about peace and will carry on with this mission. I also believe that Their Majesties’ visits helped not just us, but many other people, to gain a deeper understanding about the war. Since 1965 I have joined Their Majesties in the summer each year in Karuizawa, where we have met child reporters from Okinawa and also on numerous occasions together with Their Majesties visited the Ohinata district close to Karuizawa, which was settled and developed by returnees after the end of the war. It is through such experiences that I have learned about the history of the war and also been able to perceive directly Their Majesties’ feelings. From time to time we have the opportunity to come together as a family, and hear from Their Majesties about the wartime, including their experiences of being evacuated. It is of great benefit for Aiko to be able to hear about such experiences.
With regard to the Obunko Fuzokuko air-raid shelter and the original recording of the speech by Emperor Showa announcing the end of the war, being able to actually visit the site of the shelter myself and clearly hear the voice of Emperor Showa on the recording were deeply emotional experiences. Coming from a generation that knows nothing of war and has enjoyed the blessings of a peaceful world since birth, I believe it is important that through opportunities provided by various kinds of exhibitions, lectures, publications or images, which enable us to gain knowledge, however small, of past experiences, we should seek constantly to remember the tragedy and inhumanity of war, strive to honor and pay tribute to those who perished in wars, and nurture peace-loving minds so that the catastrophe of war is never again repeated. It is also important for such efforts to be passed on to future generations.
At the same time, around the world there are still a number of regions where conflicts are continuing. It is my sincere wish that the horrors of these conflicts will end and that one day peace will reign around the entire world.
It was the first time for me to enter the Obunko Fuzokuko and I am grateful to have been granted such a valuable opportunity. Upon entering I got a palpable sense of what a very important role this place had played and as I looked around I tried to imagine how it would have looked like at the time, combining scenes I had in the back of my mind from pictures and other materials and the actual scene I saw before me. When I heard that this was the place where Emperor Showa had actually sat, I had a deep emotion, as if I had been transported back to that time. With regard to the original recording of the announcement of the end of the war, although I have heard a copy of the recording many times, for example on the news and other programs, it was deeply moving for me to see the actual discs of the original recording and to hear the voice of Emperor Showa from this original recording.
When I was the same age as Aiko I visited Australia and the experience I had of spending time on a homestay with an Australian family is now an extremely valuable treasure for me. I think that the chance to travel overseas during junior high school was one that was of great benefit for me and although it was only for a short period it gave me the opportunity to look at Japan from an overseas perspective. When Aiko was small she traveled to the Netherlands and if there are opportunities in the future to travel overseas in some form or another I believe that it would help to broaden her horizons. Indeed, I think it is very important to gain such experiences while still young. However, we have no specific plans at the moment.