Last year various regions of Japan were struck by natural disasters, afflicting many people. I am deeply concerned for the victims of these disasters as the harsh cold of winter is hitting them. In addition, economic conditions in Japan have yet to fully recover and I am aware that this is causing hardship for people.
Overseas, it is most regrettable that many lives have been lost due to conflicts. Natural disasters abroad have also seen many lives sacrificed, in particular, the earthquake that struck at the end of the year and the subsequent tsunami which inflicted tremendous damage on the neighboring countries. It has been reported that a huge number of people have lost their lives or are missing. This disaster is truly heart-rending. I am reminded of the tsunami that hit Okushiri Island and surrounding areas in Hokkaido as a result of the Hokkaido-Nansei-Oki Earthquake twelve years ago, and of the Sanriku-Oki Earthquake and tsunami that occurred in the year of my birth, and is said to have resulted in more than 3,000 people lost or missing.
This year marks the tenth anniversary of the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake. I think it is important that we learn from the past natural disasters in order to create a society with a high degree of security.
At the start of the new year, wishing for the people's happiness, I sincerely hope that everyone will make utmost efforts to help one another, and together with the people of the world, strive for a peaceful world and happiness for all.