At the Residence
Press Conference by His Imperial Highness the Crown Prince on the Occasion of His Visit to Malaysia（2017）
I am truly delighted to make what will be my first visit to Malaysia upon the invitation from the country in the landmark year of the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Japan and Malaysia. I would like to express my sincere appreciation to Malaysia for inviting me.
I believe that my first encounter with Malaysia would have been in 1970, at the time of the visit to Malaysia by Their Majesties the Emperor and Empress, who were then Crown Prince and Crown Princess. Although I cannot clearly recall what I heard about Malaysia from my parents at that time, I certainly remember being aware as a mere child of Malaysia as a country with a highly respected king. Also, as a child I was fond of collecting postage stamps of Japan and other countries and among these was one on which a human face and a tiger were portrayed with the words “MALAYA.” Wondering what country this stamp could be from, I asked my parents, and then I learned the stamp was actually from the Federation of Malaya, the predecessor of present-day Malaysia, and this attracted my interest. When my upcoming visit to Malaysia was decided, I once again flicked through my old stamp album and found that the stamp I had remembered had been released on June 10 in 1960—the year I was born—and the person portrayed on the stamp was Colonel Sultan Sir Ismail of the State of Johor, part of the Federation of Malaya.
In terms of my impressions of Malaysia today, words like “diversity” and “tolerance” spring to my mind. Malaysia is home to people from diverse backgrounds, encompassing multiple ethnic groups, including Malays, Chinese and Indians, and different religions and cultures. I understand that all of these people, by coexisting together and respecting differences with other peoples, have created the vitality that has spurred the development of Malaysia as one nation. These concepts and the attitude of the people of Malaysia have not only served to promote national development, they have also been put to use through the regional framework of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Since the latter half of the 1960s and triggered by the establishment of ASEAN, the countries of Southeast Asia on the whole have made great strides in national development, and I have heard that Malaysia, with its special characteristics of diversity and tolerance, has played a profoundly significant leadership role in this development process, with nations working in cooperation with each other. The experiences and wisdom that Malaysia has accumulated over time are now of ever increasing importance for the future of Asia and also for the world as a whole.
The “Look East Policy” that has been promoted by Malaysia since 1982 can also be said to be another striking point about the country’s development. I understand that this policy has also played an extremely important role in enhancing friendship and goodwill between Japan and Malaysia.
Their Majesties the Emperor and Empress have visited Malaysia on three occasions and I have heard from Their Majesties about the Kings and members of the Royal Families of Malaysia that they have met, including His Royal Highness Sultan Dr Nazrin Muizzuddin Shah, the Deputy Yang Di-Pertuan Agong of Malaysia and Chancellor of the University of Malaya, with whom I am going to meet at the University of Malaya, and also his late father, His Majesty Sultan Azlan Muhibbuddin Shah. His Majesty Sultan Azlan Shah, with whom Their Majesties shared ties of deep friendship, was the Yang Di-Pertuan Agong of Malaysia at the time of Their Majesties’ visit to the country in 1991. On that occasion, Their Majesties were unable to travel to the State of Perak, the home of His Majesty Sultan Azlan Shah, due to the haze caused by forest fires. These prevented their airplane from flying, and they were very much disappointed. I recall hearing from Their Majesties how happy they were to have been able finally to visit the State of Perak on their third visit to Malaysia, and to meet with His Royal Highness Sultan Azlan Shah, who although no longer the Yang Di-Pertuan Agong, greeted Their Majesties as Sultan of the State of Perak, as well as with His Royal Highness Sultan Nazrin Shah. The fact that the Yang Di-Pertuan Agong is elected on a rotating basis from among the Sultans who rule Malaysia’s states is also something I heard many years ago from Their Majesties.
This year marks the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Japan and Malaysia. Throughout the course of history the two countries have shared close relations. For example, going back as far as the 16th century there were trading relations between the Malacca Sultanate, which prospered as a relay point for East-West trade, and the Kingdom of the Ryukyus. After that many Japanese trading vessels, the most notable of which were the Shuinsen (Red Seal ships), visited ports in the Malay Peninsula. Furthermore, Saint Francis Xavier, well known for spreading the Christian faith to Japan, set off from Goa in India together with a Japanese person and travelled via Malacca, before landing in Kagoshima in 1549. From the Meiji period onwards, too, many Japanese travelled from Japan to the Malay Peninsula, where they were involved in trade and engaged in businesses, including those relating to rubber production, iron ore mining and fisheries, and they made lives for themselves there. In the postwar period, under the “Look East Policy” that has sought to learn from Japan’s experiences of achieving an astounding development from the devastation of war, 16,000 outstanding Malaysians have come to Japan to engage in study or receive training.
I believe that as the backdrop to these continued interactions between our countries are the common traits that we share, including the value of person-to-person relations, thinking of other people and seeking to help each other, and putting emphasis on collaboration over and above confrontation. Just as Japan respects a spirit of collaboration and mutual concession, so too in Malaysia is there a phrase, gotong royong, which means “mutual assistance.” I think that this phrase is truly an expression of the Malaysian people’s concept of embracing diversity and seeking to think of others, extend a helping hand, and reach common understanding. I believe that the reason for the great success of Malaysia’s “Look East Policy” is that our two countries share such deep-rooted similarities.
In view of this background, I would like to speak about some points that I wish to pay particular attention to on my visit to Malaysia.
Firstly, through this visit I would like to look back on the long history of exchanges that have been nurtured between Japan and Malaysia. During my visit, there is a plan to visit the National Museum of Malaysia, where I will see various exhibits relating to Malaysia’s history. I understand that some of these exhibits introduce the history of exchanges with Japan. Also scheduled are meetings with Malaysians who have studied in Japan and have returned home to play an active role in society, as well as Japanese families who have emigrated to the Malay Peninsula and have endeavored to strengthen bilateral relations. By seeing such exhibits and interacting with so many people, I hope I can look back on our shared history of exchanges and also reconfirm the points we share in common, to which I have just referred.
Secondly, I hear that during the course of this year many exchange events are being planned through cooperation between the governments of both countries and also with the voluntary participation of many people, and I hope that these will help to further deepen our exchanges. In particular, during my visit I am going to meet young students who are studying the Japanese language in order to prepare themselves for study in Japan, and I shall also meet high school students who participated in a Japanese speech contest. It is the younger generation, possessing such an interest in Japan and a strong desire to engage in relations with Japan, who will in the future form an essential foundation for further enhancing friendly relations between Japan and Malaysia. I look forward to seeing such people having meaningful experiences and being active in their interactions with Japan. I also hope that young people in Japan will take a further interest in Malaysia and work to deepen exchanges with young Malaysians.
Thirdly, with regard to issues relating to water and disaster risk reduction, which are my areas of specialty, I think there is a great deal that we can learn from each other. I understand that the kingdoms that formed the basis for the modern-day states of Malaysia grew and developed around the estuaries of various major rivers. In Japan too, water is deeply intertwined with the daily lives of the people and it has been one of the major challenges to people as to how to face issues related to water. In my keynote lecture at the United Nations Special Thematic Session on Water and Disasters in 2015 I cited the SMART tunnel in Malaysia as a good practical example. This tunnel is an extremely unusual facility, even in global terms, as it was constructed for the dual purposes of flood drainage and alleviating traffic congestion. I am planning to see this tunnel on my visit. As there are many things that Japan can learn from such efforts by Malaysia, I hope that broad exchanges will also be advanced between our two countries in the areas of the environment, including water-related issues, and disaster risk reduction.
Finally, it is my sincere hope that through my visit to Malaysia I can be of some small assistance in advancing mutual understanding and friendly relations between Malaysia and Japan, in particular the promotion of exchanges among the younger generation.
As part of official duties, overseas visits provide precious opportunities to enhance mutual understanding and friendship between Japan and the countries that are visited, and as such are also an extremely important role of the Imperial Family.
On their overseas visits, Their Majesties have addressed themselves to various events in the countries they visited, always keeping in mind the history between Japan and those countries and giving deep thought to the best ways to promote mutual understanding and friendship for the future. As I have seen for myself the way Their Majesties have conducted themselves, I too seek to honor their wishes and work to promote international goodwill.
My visit is taking place in the landmark year of the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Japan and Malaysia, but our shared history of exchanges goes back many years to the Malacca Sultanate, which was established in the 15th century, and since then the exchanges have taken place in various fields and on various levels. I hope that by my visit I can be of some small service in making the bonds that Japan and Malaysia share even stronger, and further advancing exchanges among the peoples of our two countries, particularly exchanges among the younger generation.
Masako was also very gratified to receive an invitation from Malaysia and would very much have liked to visit. However, with an overseas visit, it is necessary to consider the contents of the events that are scheduled to take place and the duration of the visit, as well as the schedule for events held in Japan prior to and after the visit. As a result of such considerations, it was decided that I would make the visit alone. As Masako has never visited Malaysia, both she and I regret very much that she will not be able to accompany me this time.
As I have mentioned previously, Masako continues to take care of her health while receiving medical treatment, and has continued making efforts and finding ways to discharge her public and private duties to the extent that she can. As a result of these efforts, her public activities have steadily increased, little by little, which in turn give Masako confidence and I am delighted that she is expanding the scope of her activities. At the same time, however, Masako remains subject to ups and downs and this means that the scope of her activities, including overseas visits, cannot be expanded immediately. It is my hope that at a measured pace, she will carefully continue to broaden gradually the scope of her activities.
I am sincerely grateful to Their Majesties the Emperor and Empress for their thoughtfulness with regard to Masako's condition. I am also grateful for the warm care and attention shown by the people of Japan.
I have already addressed the point about my image of Malaysia. For the international community, which still has to tackle various confrontations, I believe that the example of Malaysia, which has accomplished national development while maintaining its ethnic, religious and cultural diversity and overcoming differences with a spirit of tolerance, could become from now a model for the way the world should follow. It is from such a perspective that I would like to see various things and hear from Malaysian people during my visit. Furthermore, given that regional cooperation is also an important challenge for the international community today, I hope to also hear about the experiences of Malaysia, which has taken a leading role in contributing to the establishment, development and strengthening of ASEAN.
On a personal level, I have long been involved in water-related issues. And as I have already mentioned, I think that there are various points that Japan and the world could learn from Malaysia, including the interrelationship between the lives of the Malaysian people and water, how Malaysia has tackled water-related natural disasters such as flooding, how forests should be preserved as a means of flood control, and what kind of measures are taken to protect ecosystems and the environment. Through my visit I hope to deepen my understanding on these points and utilize the knowledge I gain in my own future activities.
Aiko visited the Kingdom of the Netherlands when she was still small, and had the opportunity to meet with various members of the Dutch Royal Family. It is my hope that Aiko will acquire an international awareness as much as possible from a young age. In order to achieve that, it will be extremely important for her actually to travel overseas, although I am not sure when this will be. As has been noted, Aiko’s school trip to Hiroshima provided an excellent learning experience for her in various aspects and she is strongly determined in the future to use the experiences and the things she saw on this trip in various ways. I am truly delighted to see her growing in this way. In her classes at school too, she is being taught by teachers who are native speakers of English and I hope that through exchanges with such people she will gradually come to acquire an international awareness.