Date:Tuesday, June 13, 2017
At the Residence
Press Conference by His Imperial Highness the Crown Prince on the Occasion of His Visit to the Kingdom of Denmark（2017）
Upon the invitation from the Government of Denmark, I am truly delighted to visit Denmark as an Honorary President for the 150th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Japan and Denmark. I would like to express my sincere appreciation to Denmark for inviting me. It has been 13 years since my last visit to Denmark, which was in 2004 to attend the wedding ceremony of His Royal Highness Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark.
I will be visiting Denmark in the landmark year of the 150th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between our two countries. Since the conclusion of the Treaty of Friendship, Commerce and Navigation between Japan and Denmark in 1867, both countries have enjoyed a broad range of exchanges in a diversity of fields. There are even more exchanges and events scheduled throughout this 150th anniversary year, which have already been held or will be held soon. In February this year, Masako and I attended the exhibition “Skagen: An Artist’s Colony in Denmark” at The National Museum of Western Art. The Minister for Culture and Ecclesiastical Affairs Ms. Mette Bock, who was visiting Japan at the time, and many other persons were present there. I was deeply impressed with the way that the 150th anniversary was being celebrated by them. The exhibition also afforded myself and Masako an opportunity to enjoy many works of Danish artists that we were previously unfamiliar with. I understand commemorative events, including this exhibition, have been successfully held in Japan and Denmark thus far. I am looking forward to attending a variety of commemorative events during my upcoming visit to Denmark.
At the press conference I gave in 2004 prior to my visit to Denmark, I referred to Denmark as a country with advanced social welfare policies and one playing a significant role in international humanitarian assistance; moreover, the social advancement of women in Denmark was remarkable. My impression of the country largely remains more or less the same in the 13 years that have passed since then. Denmark is well known as a country with welfare policies giving due consideration to children, the elderly and disabled persons and other socially vulnerable people, and a social environment that encourages the active participation of women. It is also famous for its advanced initiatives for tackling global warming and other environmental conservation issues. I understand that Denmark continues to be an excellent example to the international community of a country that actively implements innovative policies which are effective in addressing these various issues facing our global society. In so doing, Denmark is not constrained by existing approaches and decisions, but it is quick to adopt positively measures they think effective and amend its policies without any hesitation. It is also well known for producing numerous prominent figures in literature, academia and music, including the famous children’s fairy-tale writer Hans Christian Andersen. I have been familiar with the stories of Hans Christian Andersen since my childhood, but I became aware of Danish music in 1981 when Her Majesty Queen Margrethe II and her husband Prince Henrik paid a state visit to Japan. At the return banquet held to mark this visit, an orchestral piece by the Danish composer Carl Nielsen was performed and I recall that I was deeply moved by this very impressive piece. Furthermore, at a concert by the NHK Symphony Orchestra last year, I heard Nielsen’s Symphony No.5, Op. 50, which reminded me of the ties between Japan and Denmark.
Against this background, I would like to talk about what I am particularly interested in during my upcoming visit to Denmark.
Firstly, I hope this visit will fondly bring to mind the history of friendly exchanges fostered between Japan and Denmark. Over many years, both countries have enjoyed a diverse range of warm interactions between the Danish Royal Family and Japan’s Imperial Family, as well as between our respective governments and citizens. Within this history is the courageous act of Johannes Knudsen, the chief engineer of the Danish cargo ship Ellen Maersk. He sacrificed his life to save a Japanese crew member on board the lumber carrier Takasagomaru from Tokushima prefecture, which was destroyed in February 1957 by fire at Cape Hinomisaki in Wakayama prefecture. A flower-offering ceremony is held at Hinomisaki every year in February in honor of his bravery. Also included in such friendly exchanges is a sister-city agreement signed in 1989 between Funabashi city in Chiba prefecture and the city of Odense, which I will visit during this trip. Funabashi city has later opened the Funabashi H.C. Andersen Park with the assistance of Odense city. I hear that on weekends the park is thronged with families. I am also looking forward to attending the exhibition “Japan in the Royal Family” during this visit, which I understand displays a range of items showcasing the close ties between the Danish Royal Family and Japan’s Imperial Family. Furthermore, I would also like to have lively discussions with Japanese nationals residing in Denmark and Danish nationals with connections to Japan about the history of exchanges between Japan and Denmark and the current state of our bilateral relations.
Secondly, there will be a variety of commemorative events held throughout the year in both Japan and Denmark, which I anticipate will further deepen the friendly exchanges and goodwill between both of our countries. During this visit, I will be seeing the architectural exhibition of Hiroshi Sanbuichi and the design exhibition “Learning from Japan” at the Design Museum Denmark. Furthermore, I will visit The Hans Christian Andersen Museum in Odense city. The Japanese architect Kengo Kuma is involved in the designing process for the renovations being planned for the museum. In these ways, Japan and Denmark continue to influence each other in many fields, such as culture and the arts. These exhibitions serve to reaffirm the positive effect such exchanges have had on the quality of art and culture in both countries, and renew my hope that they may facilitate further friendly exchanges and goodwill between Japan and Denmark. Moreover, Crown Prince Frederik visited Higashi-Matsushima city in Miyagi prefecture directly after the Great East Japan Earthquake This has led to the ongoing warm exchanges between the people of both countries. I sincerely hope that my visit to Denmark will further solidify the bond between Japan and Denmark, which has formed through such friendly exchanges over the years, and deepen the interactions among the people of our countries.
Thirdly, as I mentioned previously, Denmark is implementing advanced initiatives for tackling global warming and other environmental conservation issues, and for addressing social issues such as an aging society, declining birth rate and child poverty. Hence, I believe Denmark can also serve as an example to Japan in many areas. During this trip, I will visit a folk high school called Nordfyns Gymnasium, where some Japanese students are studying Denmark’s social welfare policies. In terms of initiatives for sustainable development, I will take a tour of a factory that manufactures equipment for ocean wind power generation. This is a joint initiative with Japanese corporations, and an excellent example of a collaboration between Japan and Denmark. It is my earnest hope that my visit to Denmark will also serve as a momentum to promote even more of such joint initiatives that make use of the strengths of both our nations.
As for my personal interest in issues relating to water, Denmark has, dating back to its Viking era, traditionally been a maritime power. Therefore, I am looking forward to visiting the Maritime Museum during this visit, and seeing for myself Denmark’s prosperous history as a maritime nation.
Regarding the relations between the Imperial Household and the Danish Royal Household, I believe very close ties have been established through the many official visits between members of the Imperial Family and the Royal Family.
Their Majesties the Emperor and Empress visited Denmark as state guests in 1998, and also in 1985 as the Crown Prince and Crown Princess. Their Majesties have mentioned on occasion the places in Denmark they visited and the kindness of the people they met there, as well as the warm hospitality they received during their visits to Denmark.
As for myself, since Masako and I had lunch with Crown Prince Frederik in 1997 at my residence (the Crown Prince’s Residence), I have had the opportunity to meet Crown Prince Frederik on many occasions and deepen our friendship. Crown Prince Frederik is very lively and sociable. Since attending his wedding ceremony in 2004, I have also been fortunate to meet him on several occasion together with Crown Princess Mary. These include the 2005 World Exposition, Aichi, and the coronation of His Majesty The King of the Netherlands in 2013. More recently in March 2015, Crown Prince Frederik and Crown Princess Mary joined us for a dinner held at my residence (the Crown Prince’s Residence). I am very much looking forward to meeting once again Her Majesty Queen Margrethe II as well as Crown Prince Frederik and Crown Princess Mary. In the wake of the Great East Japan Earthquake, Her Majesty Queen Margrethe II offered to charity artworks made by herself, and the proceeds of this sale were given as donations. Crown Prince Frederik also collected donations from Danish corporations for the same purpose. I would once again like to express my sincere appreciation for the care and concern expressed by Her Majesty Queen Margrethe II and other members of the Danish Royal Family toward those affected by the disaster.
Masako was delighted to receive an invitation from the Government of Denmark, and she very much wanted to accompany me on this visit if at all possible. However, after considering the contents of events scheduled during the visit and the itinerary including traveling to different places within Denmark, and also taking into account Masako’s domestic duties before and after the visit, it was decided that on this occasion I would visit Denmark on my own. Masako has fostered friendly relationship with Crown Prince Frederik and Crown Princess Mary, and she has many fond memories of time spent together with them. Therefore, Masako regrets deeply that she will not be able to visit Denmark on this occasion.
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. However, she still remains subject to ups and downs in terms of her health, and therefore it is not possible quickly to expand the scope of her activities, including overseas visits. Hence, it is difficult for me to comment at present on any prospect for Masako’s future overseas visits.
I would like to refrain from commenting on any matter relating the special law that regulates the institutions of the Imperial Household.
As for overseas visits to foster international goodwill, I regard such visits as an excellent opportunity to enhance mutual understanding and friendship between Japan and the countries that are visited. I believe paying these overseas visits is an extremely important role of the Imperial Family.
Their Majesties have addressed themselves to various events at the countries they visited, always keeping in mind the history between Japan and the countries, while also looking ahead to the future and giving deep thought to how they can best promote mutual understanding and friendship. I have observed for myself how Their Majesties conduct overseas visits, and so I also seek to honor their wishes and make concerted efforts to foster international goodwill. This April I visited Malaysia, which is a country Their Majesties have visited on three occasions. During this visit, I drew on the affinity between Japan and the Royal Families of Malaysia and also its people, which has been established through these visits by Their Majesties, and did my best to continue fostering friendly exchanges between our country and the people of Malaysia, particularly its younger generation.
As for overseas visits to attend memorial services for the war dead, Their Majesties have, during their visits so far to various countries, shown deep respect in commemorating both Japanese and foreign nationals who have sacrificed their lives under unfortunate circumstances in World War II. I would like to honor their wishes, and carry out my future overseas visits with sincerity.
On a daily basis, I have been discussing with Masako what will be our approach to preserving and fostering the international goodwill of the Imperial Family, and I hope to continue taking various opportunities to have such discussions.
As I previously mentioned at the press conference on the occasion of my birthday in February this year, I was deeply moved to hear His Majesty state with concern in his message last August that, “I am worried that it may become difficult for me to carry out my duties as the symbol of the State with my whole being as I have done until now.” At the same time, however, I can very well understand the background that led His Majesty to feel this way, and I would like to take seriously to heart the thoughts of His Majesty.
Furthermore, over the course of many years in which His Majesty has carried out his duties as a symbolic Emperor, His Majesty has spent his days searching for and contemplating on what the role of the Emperor should be, while cherishing every single event and devotedly engaging in his duties. I would like to honor the wishes of His Majesty and also keep in mind the path traveled by past Emperors, as I continue to devote my whole self to fulfilling my duties, including those that I have taken over from His Majesty.
I would like to refrain from commenting in regard to this matter in my current position. I am always deeply moved to hear and observe at close quarters the sincere wishes of His Majesty in honoring the spirits of the war dead with the thoughts as I have just described.