A Recent Portrait of Her Majesty the Empress (Photo:Imperial Household Agency)
A year and a half has gone by since the 2016 Kumamoto Earthquakes. In the past twelve months we have continued to have many earthquakes, some even as large as “less than 6” on the Japanese seismic intensity scale, as well as river floods and landslides caused by heavy torrential downpours in various parts of the country. Even as we speak, volcanic eruptions in Shinmoedake peak in Kyushu is continuing incessantly. In northern Kyushu, which was first devastated by last year’s Kumamoto Earthquakes, then again by torrential rains, many people continue to live in temporary housing. In the three prefectures of Iwate, Miyagi, and Fukushima, over 18,000 people still live in temporary housing although more than six years have elapsed since the Great East Japan Earthquake and subsequent tsunami. These matters grieves me greatly. Also in northern Kyushu, some areas were doubly hit by heavy rains after being struck by earthquakes. My heart goes out to the people in those areas who must be experiencing deep sadness, and I pray that they will not lose hope and take good care of their health in the coming cold winter months.
This year, together with His Majesty, I visited Viet Nam soon after the turn of the year. Although I have been to various parts of Asia, it was the first time for me to visit the country that I knew in my childhood as Futsuin, or French Indochina, and I headed to Vietnam recalling a line from a poem I read, probably in an elementary school textbook, that went, “Annan Shamu wa mada haruka, An Nam(Viet Nam) and Siam(Thailand) are still far away.” Through this visit, I was able to find out about the many deep connections between Viet Nam and Japan including the close friendship between Phan Boi Chau, who is known as the pioneer of Vietnamese independence movement, and a Japanese physician, as well as about the former Japanese soldiers who remained in Vietnam for a while after World War II and the families they had with their Vietnamese spouses and their children—things that we have not been told about very much. This visit was a profoundly memorable and unforgettable journey for me.
My travels within Japan this year were made all the more touching by the thought that this could be the last time for me to be visiting these prefectures with His Majesty in an official capacity, and the beauty of each place struck me even more deeply than usual as I traveled around the country. In every one of the places I visit in Japan, I would always notice the high awareness of the people, their sincerity, and their diligence which I think are unchanging national traits that go back to ancient times, but especially in recent years I feel at times that the accumulation of wisdom and experience through the ages have helped raise these traits to the level of local culture. Perhaps one example could be the massive fire which broke out in Itoigawa last December. The people there had experienced great fires in the past and were aware of the hazard of strong winds and they were also prepared for various responses to crises. It was a most unfortunate incident but, in spite the big fire and the extent of the disaster, not a single life was lost, which was remarkable.
The past year has also been an eventful one worldwide, including changes of administration in the United States and France, the formal notification by the United Kingdom to leave the European Union, and frequent terrorist attacks in different parts of the world. One news that left a deep impression on me was the appointment of Izumi Nakamitsu as the United Nations Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for Disarmament Affairs. I felt at first that the word “disarmament” sounded somewhat distant. But from what Ms. Nakamitsu has mentioned since taking office, that disarmament is also about prevention, I have come to learn that part of the work of disarmament lies in viewing disarmament not in a narrow, confined sense of “disarmament”, but from a more integrated perspective that encompasses other domains, such as the economy, society, and the environment, and preventing potential conflict in a region by, for instance, assisting with its sustainable economic growth. This made me glad and I felt that the concept would help deepen my interest in this field in the future. I pray that Ms. Nakamitsu, who has already gained substantial field experience under Ms Sadako Ogata, the former United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, will continue to stay in good health so that she will be able to carry out her duties well.
Looking back on the past twelve months, the first thing that continues to weigh on my mind would be the recovery and reconstruction of areas that have been stricken by natural and nuclear disasters. The future of the Japanese scholarship system and the considerations needed for immigrant children growing up in Japan are also matters of concern. With regards to the environment, the dramatic increase in plastic waste, and the fact that fish which have ingested microplastics have already been found in widespread areas worries me. I am also concerned about some of the small but harmful insects such as redback spiders (Latrodectus hasseltii), which have been rapidly increasing of late, and other alien species that are gradually spreading their habitat. Of these insects, the fire ant (Solenopsis invicta) is particularly venomous and dangerous, and I hope that nobody who handles cargo in ports will be stung by them.
One recent piece of news that gave me joy was the awarding of the Ramon Magsaysay Award in August to Dr. Yoshiaki Ishizawa, who, for more than 50 years, including the time of Cambodia’s period of isolation from the international community, has dedicated himself to studying, preserving and restoring the remains of Angkor Wat and to training local personnel who can engage in that work. I have great respect for Dr. Ishizawa for making a Japanese contribution to Asia by consistently working with the idea of “restoration by the Cambodian people, for the Cambodian people.”
I have also been paying close and hopeful attention, to the medical world, notably to the steady developments in the field that began with the discovery of iPS cells. I eagerly await the day that these developments will bring a hope of recovery to so many people suffering from illnesses.
The world of sport, too, saw its fair share of good news. In particular, in the World Sprint Speed Skating Championships, a Japanese woman claimed overall victory for the first time, and at long last, a Japanese track athlete broke the 10-second barrier in the men’s 100-meter dash, followed shortly by another fine record of 10.00 seconds. These and other achievements have made for a wonderfully fruitful year. The refreshing and graceful retirement press conferences given by figure skater Mao Asada, golfer Ai Miyazato, and tennis player Kimiko Date have all left strong impressions on me as well.
The game of Shogi also delighted many people this year. I was struck not only by the appearance of a fresh young professional shogi player but also by the reaction and response of the more experienced players who welcomed his emergence and took it upon themselves to nurture the young man with warmth.
I was happy to hear about the inscription of the Sacred Island of Okinoshima and Associated Sites in the Munakata Region on the UNESCO World Heritage list, and I am looking forward to visiting the shrines of Munakata Taisha in November.
The Nobel Prize season is upon us once again, and two prizes with connections to Japan were awarded this year.
The Nobel Prize in Literature was awarded to the Japanese-British novelist Kazuo Ishiguro. Although I have only read one work by Mr. Ishiguro thus far, that novel, The Remains of the Day, has left a deep and lasting impression on me. I would like to offer my heartfelt congratulations to its author.
The Nobel Peace Prize was presented to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN). While Japan’s position regarding nuclear weapons is complicated, I feel it is most significant that, owing to the efforts of the atomic bomb survivors in Hiroshima and Nagasaki over many long years, the world seems to have finally turned its attention to the inhumanity of nuclear weapons and the horrifying consequences once they are used. At the same time, I hope that the people of the world will take more notice that the hearts of Japan’s atomic bomb survivors have never been directed towards retaliation, which sets off a chain of more fighting, but towards the pursuit of a peaceful future.
Over the past year, we bade farewell to many familiar faces. They include Michiko Inukai, the physician Dr. Shigeaki Hinohara, the writers Shumon Miura and Makoto Ooka, the former yokozuna Sadanoyama, Tadayoshi Nagashima, who was the mayor of Yamakoshi village at the time of the 2004 Niigata Chuetsu Earthquake, and Akio Harada, who supported the Imperial Family as a special advisor to the Imperial Household Agency with sincerity. This year we also lost a number of authors and artists, both at home and abroad, who produced work for children for many years. Among them are Dick Bruna, the creator of Miffy, Michael Bond, known for his Paddington Bear series, Satoru Sato, the author of the Korobokkuru Monogatari series, and picture book author Yutaka Sugita.
It was regrettable that Yukinori Miyabe, who came in third place in the 1,000-meter speed skating event at the Albertville Winter Olympic Games 25 years ago, passed away at the far too young age of 48. I remember as if it were yesterday how, when we invited the Olympic medalists to the Akasaka Residence, he asked, “Would you like to try it on?” and put his bronze medal around my neck.
In October last year, His Imperial Highness Prince Mikasa passed away at the grand age of 100. He is sorely missed, but I feel truly thankful and reassured that Her Imperial Highness Princess Mikasa, even in her advanced age, continues to lovingly watch over the next generation of Imperial Family members.
Within my family, in September, the informal engagement of Mako, the older daughter of Prince and Princess Akishino, and my first grandchild whose growth I have watched over with great affection, to Mr. Kei Komuro was announced. Soon after the announcement, Mako’s younger sister, Kako, left Japan to study at the University of Leeds.
This June, our daughter Sayako succeeded Mrs. Atsuko Ikeda as the Most Sacred Priestess of Ise Grand Shrine.
Concerning His Majesty’s abdication, after much deliberation by the people, a special law was formally approved by the Diet on June 9. It means that His Majesty, after having devoted Himself for so many years to pursuing the role of the Emperor as the symbol of the State, will now, in His advancing years, be able to spend some days of calm and quiet. The prospect gives me an immeasurable sense of relief, and I am profoundly grateful to the many people who have made it possible.
Today Her Majesty the Empress celebrated Her 83rd birthday.
Over the past year, Her Majesty has not always been in perfect health. In addition to the chronic pain caused by cervical spondylotic radiculopathy, She developed acute bronchitis at the end of last year. In the spring She was diagnosed with herpes labialis (fever blisters) and herpes zoster (shingles). In spite of Her own health problems, Her Majesty has continued to watch over the Emperor’s health with much care and has stood by His side, offering His Majesty Her constant support, while carrying out Her duties in Her capacity as Empress on 338 occasions.
Though not counted in these official duties, Her Majesty continues to observe the ritual ceremonies at the Imperial Palace in keeping with tradition even today, when She is in Her eighties. This year, She attended the Annual Ceremony of Emperor Showa and the Annual Ceremony of Empress Kojun at Koreiden, as well as the Autumn Ceremonies of Korei-sai and Shinden-sai at Koreiden and Shinden, respectively. Her Majesty refrained from attending the Spring Ceremonies of Korei-sai and Shinden-sai as She was being treated for shingles at the time. With regard to the ritual ceremonies in which She does not take part, Her Majesty offers prayers at the Imperial Residence, where She remains for the duration of the ceremony.
Her Majesty also meets, without fail, the members of the Palace voluntary workforce and voluntary helpers at the Kashiko Dokoro (Palace Sanctuary) who serve at the ritual ceremonies of the Imperial Palace and thanks them for their services. This year She met a total of about 9,500 persons, on 59 occasions.
In February this year, Their Majesties made a state visit to the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam. On the evening of Their arrival in Hanoi, Their Majesties first met and conversed with members of the Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers working in Viet Nam, then met and expressed Their appreciation to the members of the Japanese Embassy in Hanoi for their work. The next day Her Majesty, together with His Majesty the Emperor, attended a welcoming ceremony, met with His Excellency President Tran Dai Quang and the First Lady, and attended a state banquet held in Their honour. While in Hanoi, They paid Their respects at the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and received in audience the National Assembly Chair, the Prime Minister and his spouse, and the His General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Viet Nam and his spouse. Their Majesties met the families of former Japanese soldiers who remained in Viet Nam after the end of World War II and participated in the war for Viet Nam’s independence, but were compelled to return to Japan, leaving their families behind. They offered the families words of comfort for the hardships they had endured over the years. Their Majesties also conversed with former students from Viet Nam who had studied in Japan and Japanese expatriates residing in Viet Nam. Her Majesty, together with His Majesty, also visited the Museum of Biology of Vietnam National University, which has strong ties with His Majesty.
On the fourth day of Their visit, Their Majesties traveled to the ancient city of Hue in central Viet Nam, where They attended a luncheon hosted by the Prime Minister and his spouse. In the citadel called the Imperial City of Hue, Their Majesties enjoyed a performance of the traditional court music and dance, Nha nhac, which shares the same roots as gagaku (ancient Imperial court music of Japan), and visited a memorial house dedicated to Phan Boi Chau, who led the cause for Viet Nam’s independence from French colonial rule. Their Majesties also met members of the Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers working in central Viet Nam and Japanese expatriates residing in central Viet Nam, and expressed their appreciation to the Japanese Embassy staff for their work.
On Their way back to Japan, Their Majesties stopped over in Thailand to bid farewell to the late King of Thailand, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who passed away in October last year. They laid flowers and signed a book of condolences at the Grand Palace, and met with His Majesty King Maha Vajiralongkorn at the Amphorn Satharn Villa. In June 2006, at a press conference prior to Their visit to Thailand and Singapore, Her Majesty talked about Her first visit to Thailand in 1964: “I recall with fondness how, on our flight from Bangkok to Chiangmai together with Their Majesties King Bhumibol and Queen Sirikit, His Majesty discreetly brought out his favourite clarinet from behind his seat and showed it to us, and, accepting our request, played for us Benny Goodman’s ‘Memories of You.’ ”
In October last year, Her Majesty accompanied His Majesty the Emperor to Kyoto Prefecture to attend the opening ceremony of the 40th World Congress of the International College of Surgeons. While there, They visited Shimogamo Shrine and Kamigamo Shrine, both of which underwent shikinen sengu, regular renewal of the shrine buildings, in 2015, as well as the Kyoto National Museum and the Kyoto Prefectural University of Medicine. In April this year, They accompanied Their Majesties King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia of Spain, who were visiting Japan as state guests, to the city of Shizuoka in Shizuoka Prefecture. Together, They toured the Shizuoka Prefecture Earthquake Disaster Prevention Center and observed a performance of traditional folk arts at Shizuoka Sengen Shrine. In May, Their Majesties attended the 68th National Arbor Day Festival in Uozu, Toyama Prefecture, where They visited the Takaoka Mikurumayama Museum, YKK Center Park, and the Koshinokuni Museum of Literature, among other places. On Marine Day in July, They visited the Yokohama Port Museum in Yokohama, Kanagawa Prefecture, and observed the manning of the yards, full-sail exhibition, and manning of the rail of the sail training ship Nippon Maru. They also visited the NYK Maritime Museum in Yokohama. In September, Their Majesties traveled to Ehime Prefecture for the 72nd National Sports Festival. After attending the opening ceremony and meeting with the members of the executive committee, They viewed the kendo event and visited the Museum of Art, Ehime, and the main building of Dogo Onsen, one of the oldest hot springs in Japan and a designated national treasure.
With regard to private trips, in November last year, Their Majesties visited Lake Iruka in Inuyama, Aichi Prefecture, followed by a visit to Manmo Kaitaku Heiwa Kinenkan, peace memorial museum on the settlement of Manchuria and Inner Mongolia, in the village of Achi, Nagano Prefecture, where They conversed with those involved in the repatriation of Japanese settlers from Manchuria. In Iida, Nagano Prefecture, Their Majesties viewed Tenryu Gorge and met junior high school students harvesting apples from apple trees lining a local road. On Their way back to Tokyo, Their Majesties stopped by the Menard Museum of Art in Komaki, Aichi Prefecture. In September this year, Their Majesties travelled to Saitama Prefecture. In Hidaka, They visited Koma Shrine, where They learned about the history and culture of the people who came to Japan from the Korean kingdom of Goguryeo in the seventh century, as well as Kinchakuda Manjushage Park, famed for its red spider lilies. In Fukaya, They toured several facilities related to Eiichi Shibusawa who was an industrialist who introduced many economic reforms and helped put Japan on a firm financial footing in the Meiji period.: Seishido and Seifutei, two buildings adjacent to the Oyori Community Center, Nakanchi, the site of the house where Shibusawa was born, and the Eiichi Shibusawa Memorial, a museum in the Yatsumoto Community Center.
During the past year, Their Majesties made official and private regional visits to fifteen cities, two towns, and one village in nine prefectures, not including Their visits for rest and recuperation to the Imperial Villas and the towns of Karuizawa and Kusatsu.
In and around Tokyo, as part of Her official duties, Her Majesty, together with His Majesty the Emperor, attended the opening of the Memorial Ceremony for the War Dead, the presentation ceremony and banquet for the Japan Prize, and the award ceremony for the International Prize for Biology, as They do every year. Their other visits included ceremonies to commemorate the centennials of the America-Japan Society, Riken (Japan’s largest scientific research institution), and the Welfare Commissioner System, the opening ceremony of the Congress of the International Commission for Optics, and a ceremony to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Nippon Izokukai (Japan War-Bereaved Families Association). Their Majesties also viewed a joint Japan-Poland production of a new noh work titled “Auschwitz, Fukushima no noh” (Noh for Auschwitz and Fukushima), which incorporated the waka poems of Their Majesties, the exhibition “Lascaux: The Cave Paintings of the Ice Age,” and a bunraku (traditional puppet theater) performance commemorating the 50th anniversary of the National Theater of Japan. On the way back from Their visit to the mausoleums of Emperor Showa and Empress Kojun in March, They stopped by in Akishima to view a retrospective exhibition on Junko Tabei, the first woman to reach the summit of Mount Everest, who died in October last year. In addition, during the Week of Disabled Persons, Their Majesties visited the Tokyo Katsushika Welfare Factory, run by Tokyo Colony, a social welfare corporation. These official visits in and around Tokyo totaled 37 occasions.
Her Majesty also made 11 official visits on Her own, including the annual meeting of the Japanese Red Cross Society and the Florence Nightingale Medal award ceremony and tea, which She attended as the Honorary President of the Society. Other events included a reception to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Japan Rheumatism Foundation, a charity concert to help conquer childhood cancer, charity concerts to support the recovery efforts from the Great East Japan Earthquake, and a meeting of the Japan Association of Braille Music Users, an organization dedicated to disseminating and promoting the utilization of Braille music for persons with visual impairments, established in 2005 with Her Majesty’s support.
At the Imperial Palace and the Imperial Residence, Their Majesties met with people who have made contributions to society through their efforts in such fields as culture, welfare, industry, international cooperation, academia, and the arts. These included recipients of the Order of Culture and Persons of Cultural Merit, recipients of various ministers’ awards, winners of the Emperor’s Prize at the Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries Festival, recipients of the National Personnel Authority President Award, persons newly recognized for maintaining Japan’s important intangible cultural properties, recipients of the Crown Prince Akihito Scholarship, which was established in commemoration of Their Majesties’ wedding in 1959, mainly by Americans of Japanese ancestry in Hawaii to support exchange students in Japan and Hawaii, representatives of the Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers returning from their overseas posts, representatives of the Senior Overseas Volunteers and the youth and senior Volunteers for Nikkei Communities, members of the Japan Academy and the Japan Art Academy, and representatives of Yukokai (support societies consisting of recipients of medals of honor and merit) organized by each prefectural chapter of the Japanese Red Cross Society. On Her own, Her Majesty, as the Honorary President of the Japanese Red Cross Society, heard reports from the president and vice president of the Society on its activities, as She does every year. She also received in audience the awardees of the annual “Nemunoki" (Silk Tree) Award, funded by the royalties donated by Her Majesty from the song “Lullaby under the Silk Tree,” a lyric poem She wrote in Her high school days. The Award is given to those involved in helping children and adults with severe mental and physical disabilities. These totaled 59 occasions. In addition, Her Majesty, either together with His Majesty or on Her own, heard lectures and reports on 52 occasions.
With regard to Japan’s relations with other countries, Her Majesty, together with His Majesty, welcomed as state guests to Japan His Excellency President Tony Tan Keng Yam and the First Lady of Singapore last November and Their Majesties King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia, the King and Queen of Spain, in April this year. In each instance Their Majesties attended the welcoming ceremony, had a meeting, and hosted a banquet at the Palace for the guests and, called on them and bade them farewell before the guests’ departure from Japan. As for guests other than state guests, They met with His Excellency President Joachim Gauck and the First Lady of Germany, His Excellency President Filipe Jacinto Nyusi and the First Lady of Mozambique, and His Excellency President Mauricio Macri and the First Lady of Argentina. They also received in audience the President of the International Olympic Committee Mr. Thomas Bach, the President of the International Paralympic Committee Sir Philip Craven and Lady Craven, the State Counsellor of Myanmar Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi, and His Excellency Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc of Viet Nam and Ms. Tran Nguyet Thu.
At the Imperial Residence, Their Majesties hosted luncheons for His Majesty King Abdullah Ⅱ bin Al Hussein of Jordan, Her Royal Highness Princess Chulabhorn Walailak of Thailand, His Excellency Ambassador Nguyen Quoc Cuong of Viet Nam and his spouse prior to Their Majesties’ state visit to Viet Nam, Her Royal Highness Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden, and Their Royal Highnesses Crown Prince Frederik and Crown Princess Mary of Denmark. They held teas at the Imperial Residence for the President of the International Committee of the Red Cross Dr. Peter Maurer, Their Majesties King Letsie III and Queen Masenate Mohato Seeiso of Lesotho, and Her Excellency Vice President Dang Thi Ngoc Thinh of Viet Nam.
In mid-September, Their Majesties received an invitation from His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei Darussalam to the banquet to celebrate the 50th anniversary of His Majesty’s accession to the throne, which was to take place on October 6 at the Sultan’s palace, but unfortunately Their Majesties were not able to attend. In light of the close relationship They enjoy with His Majesty the Sultan, Their Majesties visited the Embassy of Brunei Darussalan in Tokyo on October 4, where They signed the visitors’ book and conveyed to the Ambassador and her spouse Their congratulations for His Majesty the Sultan’s 50th anniversary.
With regard to the diplomatic corps serving in Tokyo, Their Majesties invited to tea the newly appointed ambassadors and their spouses, representing 42 countries, and to luncheon the ambassadors and their spouses who have been in Japan for three years or longer, representing 26 countries, as well as granting farewell audiences to the ambassadors and their spouses from 15 countries upon completion of their assignments. Her Majesty joined His Majesty in meeting Japanese ambassadors and their spouses departing for overseas posts in 48 countries and two organizations. They also invited to tea the ambassadors and their spouses returning to Japan from 30 countries and one organization and heard accounts of their experiences in those countries.
His Imperial Highness Prince Mikasa passed away on October 27 last year. In deep sorrow, Their Majesties went into mourning for seven days, sharing in the grief of the bereaved family. In the period immediately following his passing, They visited his residence four times to attend the ritual ceremonies. After these ceremonies, privately, concerned about the aging Imperial Highness Princess Mikasa, Their Majesties visited her to offer Their sympathy and to be by her side. Following the funeral rites and the ceremony to mark the 100th day after the Prince’s passing, They made official visits to Toshimagaoka Cemetery to pay Their respects. Their Majesties also visited Toshimagaoka Cemetery in February, on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the passing of Prince Nobuhito of Takamatsu, and in June, on the occasion of the 5th anniversary of the passing of Prince Tomohito of Mikasa at their respective tombs.
On September 3, the informal engagement of Her Imperial Highness Princess Mako, Their Majesties’ first grandchild, to Mr. Kei Komuro was announced. On the same day, at the Imperial Residence, Their Majesties received greetings from and expressed Their congratulations to Their Imperial Highnesses Prince and Princess Akishino, the parents of Princess Mako, Her Imperial Highness Princess Mako, and Mr. Komuro.
This year, the annual Imperial sericulture work began in May, and Her Majesty made a total of 19 visits to the related places, including the mulberry fields on the Palace grounds, where she picks the leaves to feed the silkworms, the enclosure for the wild silkworms where She breeds and harvests them and the Imperial Cocoonery, where She tends to and harvests the koishimaru silkworm cocoons. Her Majesty makes straw cocooning frames, spinning the cocoons, harvesting the cocoons, and trimming them. This year’s yield of cocoons amounted to 160.4 kilograms. The koishimaru, which Her Majesty cultivates, is a purely domestic silkworm and is considered optimal for restoring ancient silk textiles. At the request of the Office of the Shosoin Treasure House, Her Majesty has increased the production of koishimaru cocoons to create replicas of various ancient items made of textile and has presented these cocoons to the Shosoin Treasure House for 14 years. In 2005, at the request of Sannomaru Shozokan (the Museum of the Imperial Collections), She has also started to present koishimaru cocoons to Sannomaru Shozokan for its project to restore the Kasuga Gongen Genki E handscrolls in its collection. In July, the 20 restored handscrolls, including their cloth covers and cords, which had taken 13 years to repair and restore, were presented to Their Majesties for viewing.
As Their Majesties consider it important to lead a well regulated life in order to maintain Their health, They continue to take Their morning strolls together in and around the Imperial Residence as part of Their daily routine, after watching the 6-o’clock news. On Sundays, Their Majesties head for Higashi Gyoen, the East Gardens, around 7 o’clock in His Majesty’s car with His Majesty at the wheel, walk around Ninomaru Garden, and at Honmaru, the site of the main compound of Edo Castle, climb atop the Tenshudai, the base of the tower, which is all that now remains, where They observe the people jogging in the distance and return to the Imperial Residence. On weekends, when time allows, They may play tennis for a brief time. In between Her official duties, Her Majesty also tries to find time to enjoy reading and practice the piano. In August, as in the past, She took part in the annual Kusatsu International Summer Music Academy and studied ensemble performance by playing with the musicians who were participating as instructors.
On Her birthday, Her Majesty will spend the time from 10:30 to 12:00 noon attending six separate events, receiving birthday greetings from the members of the Imperial Family and relatives, the Prime Minister, the Speaker and the President of the House of Councillors, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Cabinet Ministers, and the Imperial Household Agency staff. At noon She will have lunch with the members of the Imperial Family, and in the afternoon She will receive birthday greetings from former members of the staff, have tea with former household staff, and also have an informal reception with old acquaintances including those from Her alma mater and other lecturers and friends. In the early evening Her Majesty will receive greetings from the young Prince and Princesses, and She will finish the day with a celebratory dinner with Her children and their spouses.
|Time||Greetings received by||Birthday Celebrations||Attended by||Location|
|10:30 am||Their Majesties The Emperor and Empress||Felicitations and Celebratory Toast||Grand Chamberlain and staff members of the Board of Chamberlains||Imperial Residence|
|11:00 am||His Majesty The Emperor||Felicitations||Grand Steward, Vice-Grand Steward representing staff members, Special Advisors||Imperial Palace|
|11:10 am||Her Majesty The Empress||Felicitations||Grand Steward and senior officials, Special Advisors, Ladies-in-waiting||Imperial Palace|
|11:20 am||Her Majesty The Empress||Felicitations||Staff members of the Imperial Household Agency and the Imperial Guard Headquarters||Imperial Palace|
|11:40 am||Her Majesty The Empress||Felicitations||Prime Minister, Ministers of State, Director-General of the Cabinet Legislation Bureau, Deputy-Chief Cabinet Secretary, President and Vice-President of the House of Councillors, Chief Justice and Justice of the Supreme Court, President of the Board of Audit, President of the National Personnel Authority, Public Prosecutor General, Chairman of the Fair Trade Commission, Chairman of the Nuclear Regulation Authority, and their spouses||Imperial Palace|
|11:50 am||Their Majesties The Emperor and Empress||Felicitations||Their Imperial Highnesses||Imperial Palace|
||Their Majesties The Emperor and Empress||Celebratory Lunch||Their Imperial Highnesses, former members and relatives of the Imperial Family||Imperial Palace|
|1:20 pm||Her Majesty The Empress||Felicitations||Former staff members of the Imperial Household Agency and the Imperial Guard Headquarters||Imperial Palace|
|1:40 pm||Their Majesties The Emperor and Empress||Celebratory Reception||Former Special Advisors, senior officials of the Imperial Household Agency, etc.||Imperial Palace|
|4:30 pm||Their Majesties The Emperor and Empress||Celebratory Reception||Lecturers, friends, etc.||Imperial Residence|
|6:30 pm||Their Majesties The Emperor and Empress||Felicitations||Their Imperial Highnesses Princess Aiko, Prince Hisahito||Imperial Residence|
|7:00 pm||Their Majesties The Emperor and Empress||Celebratory Dinner||Their Imperial Highnesses The Crown Prince and Princess, Prince and Princess Akishino, Mr. and Mrs. Kuroda||Imperial Residence|