Press Conference on the occasion of Their Majesties' visit to the Republic of Poland and the Republic of Hungary (2002)

Press Conference on the occasion of Their Majesties' visit to the Republic of Poland and the Republic of Hungary (2002)

Date:June 20, 2002

Imperial Palace, Tokyo

Question 1
This question is addressed to both Your Majesties. What do you think is the significance of your first visit to Eastern Europe? Please describe your expectations for these upcoming visits. Also, please tell us of anything on the itinerary that you are especially looking forward to and any matters that you are particularly interested in.
Response by His Majesty the Emperor

Having received invitations from Their Excellencies the President of the Republic of Poland and the President of the Republic of Hungary, it has been decided that we will pay Official Visits to these two countries. During the weekend prior to our visit to Poland, we will visit Prague in the Czech Republic and during the weekend prior to our visit to Hungary we will also visit Vienna in Austria. We are deeply grateful for the kindness shown by Their Excellencies the Presidents of each of these countries.

This will be the first occasion for us to pay a visit to each of the four countries. On the occasion of my attendance at the coronation of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in 1953, I also visited other countries in Europe and North America. Since there were no diplomatic relations between Japan and these four countries in those days, I was unable to visit them. Even since the resumption of diplomatic relations with them, there were no State Visits from these countries to Japan in the Showa era, with the exception of Poland. Accordingly, I had no opportunity to visit these countries representing Emperor Showa. Mr. Jaruzelski, Chairman of the Council of State of the Polish People's Republic, made a State Visit to Japan in 1987. This was the last State Visit when Emperor Showa attended all of the official events. Afterwards we received an invitation from Chairman Jaruzelski to visit Poland on the occasion of the Frederic Chopin International Piano Competition in 1990, but as I had already ascended the Throne, the visit to Poland was not realized.

Since the start of the Heisei era, together with the collapse of the Soviet Union, Poland, Hungary and then-Czechoslovakia underwent great changes. Exchange with Japan has also become more active, and President Havel of Czechoslovakia, President Walesa of Poland, President Klestil of Austria and President Göncz of Hungary have each paid State Visits to Japan. In addition, I met with the current President Kwasniewski of Poland on the occasion of his visit to Japan for the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics. I am very much looking forward to being able to meet all of them once again on the occasion of this visit.

I believe that in the future, exchange between Japan and each of the four countries will become increasingly vigorous. I will be very happy if this visit contributes to the deepening of mutual understanding and the advancement of friendly relations between Japan and each of the four countries.

The countries we will visit have from olden times been lands where a variety of ethnic groups have interacted with one another, and the people who have settled in these countries have created their cultures. On this visit I would like to experience these cultures and deepen my understanding of the arduous path that the people of these countries have traveled to reach the present day. I hope that this visit will also be one that I will be able to look back as a significant visit for myself.

Response by Her Majesty The Empress

Of the countries that are collectively known as Central and Eastern Europe, we have already visited the Republic of Bulgaria, Romania, and the former Yugoslavia, consisting of Serbia, Croatia, Montenegro, Macedonia and Slovenia. This will, however, be our first occasion to visit the Czech Republic, the Republic of Poland and the Republic of Hungary. Looking at a map, these three countries are situated in more or less the center of Europe, and during the Cold War era, while politically looking eastward, their cultures remained closer to the West, and for a long period these countries had to live through such a complex history. All three of these countries attained a new political structure due to the "East-European Revolution" and I am deeply moved by the fact that during the long months and years before this new political structure was achieved, the people of these countries never lost their enduring aim for freedom and independence.

At the time of the "Velvet Revolution" in the Czech Republic, I heard that the Czech National Symphony Orchestra constantly played the symphony poem by Bedrich Smetana "Ma Vlast" or "My Fatherland." I am made aware on occasion of the fact that the arts and culture of the countries we will visit are deeply intertwined with the people's love for their homeland.

It is a great joy for me that together with His Majesty the Emperor I shall travel to those countries which for many years I have been longing to visit but until now have been unable to do so. Concerning the importance of the visits, in answer to your question, I think that the primary significance is that in going to foreign countries as a State Guest, His Majesty demonstrates goodwill and friendship towards these countries, representing the nation of Japan.

During our visit to these three countries, I would like to come in touch with those things that are a source of their national pride, which, during the course of a damaging and troubled history, have been created by the people of each country, and have been cherished and protected, and when destroyed, have been rebuilt by them. Being near them I would like to feel the spirit of the people who have accomplished these things. I am hoping that in journeying to these countries I will be able to feel the atmosphere of the moment in those countries, and have good encounters with many people.

Question 2
This will be a long visit, taking in four countries over a period of two weeks. However, in May Your Majesty The Emperor had to partially cancel your official schedule due to a cold. Are you taking any new precautions concerning your health? Furthermore, I would like to ask Your Majesty the Empress if in addition to maintaining your own good health, there is anything that you are doing to help His Majesty The Emperor maintain good health?
Response by His Majesty the Emperor

Unusually for me, I suffered from a cold for a long period, and I am afraid that I caused anxiety to many people. It is regrettable that due to my indisposition I had to cancel one of my official duties, but for the most part my fever was confined to the holiday period and I was able to conduct my other duties without having to make further changes to my schedule. The Empress was always by my side to look after me most caringly and I am concerned that during this period, which was a rare time off for her, she was neither able to do her own work nor take a rest. With regard to my health, I am not taking any particular new precautions or measures. This foreign visit, like the previous one, will have a busy schedule, and I will duly look after my health.

Response by Her Majesty The Empress

I was most concerned for His Majesty this time because he had a very bad cough, such as he had never had before. Even while he was unwell, His Majesty carried out all of his official duties in affairs of state, but was forced to cancel one outing, and rest over national-holidays and weekends.

His Majesty does not take any special precautions regarding his health. Rather, I would say that His Majesty's lifestyle itself is one that is healthy, and I am most thankful that to date, His Majesty has almost always enjoyed the best of health. Even with advancing years, since the volume of His Majesty's workload is not lessening, I think it is important to be watchful lest His Majesty should overwork and at such times see that he takes proper rest.

Most of His Majesty's duties are ones that he cannot delegate to someone else, and since the people around His Majesty take turns in serving him, it is sometimes difficult to realize the entire volume of work His Majesty performs everyday.

Because of the nature of His Majesty's work, I am unable to be by His Majesty's side at all times. The least I can do is to be with him as much as possible so that I may experience with him the constant accumulation of his work, and at least be able to gauge the degree of fatigue that is felt by His Majesty.

Question 3
During this visit you will journey to countries that are familiar to the Japanese for their artistic and cultural heritages, including music. What impressions do Your Majesties have of the arts and cultures of the countries that you will visit? Also, what kind of relations do you believe Japan should seek to build with these countries in economic and other areas?
Response by His Majesty the Emperor

All of the countries that we will visit on this trip have cultivated rich art and culture, and the Japanese people are familiar with them for their arts and cultures. It is perhaps their music that is best known by the Japanese. There are times when I too, enjoy listening to the music of these countries while at table.

If we look back over history we can see that, with the exception of Austria, which was once the center of the Holy Roman Empire and was annexed by Germany for a short period of time, all of these countries have experienced partition, loss of territory or domination by other countries as they traveled their respective difficult paths. There are works of art that describe the people who have lived through difficult times or works of art imbued with love of the lost country. Although such works are cherished in Japan as they are the common cultural heritage of all humanity, I believe that it is important to understand their historical context. I intend to make the most of this opportunity to deepen my understanding of the history of these countries.

Many artistic and cultural exchanges have been undertaken between Japan and these countries. I hope that these exchanges will be further expanded across an even broader spectrum so as to foster firm relations of trust between the Japanese people and the peoples of these countries.

The Empress greatly enjoys music and painting, as well as reading, and as I feel that she is the right one to answer this question, I will leave the rest to her.

Response by Her Majesty The Empress

What should I do? I too find this question difficult to answer and cannot respond like Matsu (Maeda Toshiie's wife in the popular weekly drama), "Leave it to me." My answer may miss the target, but I shall try to talk with the help of the notes I have prepared.

This trip will be our first visit to each of the four countries, but when I think back, I have recollections of favorable though fleeting encounters, with each of these countries.

Some of these encounters came in books, such as "A Postman's Story" (Pobádku post'áckou) by Karel Capek, illustrated by Josef Capek, and other books such as "The Pal Street Boys" (A Pál-Uticai Fiúk) by Ferenc Molnar, and "Quo Vadis" by Henryk Sienkiewicz. At the time of the Expo '70 in Osaka, when I visited the Czech Pavilion I saw a beautiful book, the explanation of which said that it was by a Czech pedagogue by the name of Comenius. The fact that a book had been exhibited as a means of representing a country has remained in my mind ever since.

Others came from music. The serenades by Haydn, and lullabies by Schubert and Mozart are part of my childhood memory, and "Tales from the Vienna Woods" is the backdrop for my memories of music classes at high school. After the war, in 1950, the Chopin played by the first pianist to come from overseas to Japan was the Chopin I listened to at the first concert I attended. This was the time before Japan concluded the San Francisco Peace Treaty with the countries of the world, and I remember the occasion with the scenes of the town, still poor but becoming a bit livelier. During my childhood I found a charming piece of music in the old music scores my parents had, and while I played it occasionally, it was only in later years that I found out this piece was actually Antonin Dvorak's "Songs my Mother Taught Me." This has remained to this day one of my favorite pieces of music. During my student days, there were still very few opportunities to listen to Bartok and Kodaly in Japan, and of the music of Hungary, I often listened to the symphonic poem "Les Preludes" by Liszt.

It was much later in life that I became acquainted with the painters and artists of Central and Eastern Europe, and still I only know their works through art books and catalogs. In January this year an exhibition was held in Tokyo of the "Viennese Secessionists" and although I was regrettably unable to attend the exhibition, I enjoyed leafing through the exhibition catalog I had asked for. Of the works exhibited, one of them "The Miracle of St. Elisabeth's Rose" made me realize that St. Elisabeth, whom I remembered only as a character in a story, was in fact a queen of Hungary. Given our upcoming visit to Hungary I am indeed happy to have chanced upon this work.

Although I feel I have not really answered your question properly, it is difficult for me to talk about the impressions I have of the arts and cultures of four countries I have not yet visited, and for this reason I have described it in this way.

Of the four countries we will visit, three, the Czech Republic, Poland and Hungary, are sometimes conceived as in one area of Central Europe, but the cultures of the countries all have slight differences in character and flavor, which is probably what gives the region its special charm. I am deeply moved by the fact that in such a relatively small region between Western Europe and Russia, these countries exist with such individuality and that the people who live there have created an art and culture, so patriotic and ethnical, which at the same time can reach out with its universality to the people of the world. I hope that between Japan and these countries which we shall be visiting, the spiritual and cultural exchange will long continue to flourish.

Question 4
Among the countries that you will visit, the Republic of Poland, the Republic of Hungary, and the Czech Republic, experienced the "East- European Revolution" from 1989 to 1990, resulting in new political systems. How does Your Majesty The Emperor view that historical process?
Response by His Majesty the Emperor

As was the case with Japan, Poland, Hungary and Czechoslovakia all suffered considerable damage in the Second World War. Whereas Japan was able to set about immediately reconstructing itself upon the war's end, Poland, Hungary and Czechoslovakia fell under the domination of the Soviet Union, and set out upon their post-war path under the yoke of severe restrictions. The mysterious death of the then Foreign Minister of Czechoslovakia, Jan Masaryk, is something that lingers in my memory of that time. Subsequently there were a number of movements opposing one-party autocratic rule under the control of the Soviet Union, including the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 and the "Prague Spring" liberation movement of 1968. None of these movements however were successful. The movement that is linked to the present began with the establishment of the independent labor union "Solidarity" in Poland in 1980. After that in the autumn of 1989, Hungary's opening of a path for people to leave for West Germany from East Germany eventually led to the collapse of the Berlin Wall itself, and enabled each of these countries to make firm steps towards democracy and freedom.

I came to realize for myself how Eastern Europe was changing, when I learned that Mr. Straub, Chairman of the Presidential Council of Hungary, who was attending the Funeral Ceremony of Emperor Showa in 1989, was not a member of the Communist Party. Once in a while, I recall with regret that Emperor Showa passed away without seeing these momentous changes in the world.

I hope that the people of those countries who have traveled a long way full of hardships and overcome them to create the present they now live in, can continue to progress with happiness, enjoying the benefits of democracy and freedom.

Question 5
Many of the royal families of Europe enjoy what is perceived as a "freer" lifestyle- traveling quite frequently, attending casual events, even bicycling in public. Foreign correspondents who come to Japan perceive the Imperial Family as being much more cloistered. Some say this appears to be a legacy from the early 20th century when the Emperor was regarded as a deity. Can Your Majesties be so kind as to inform us what sort of lifestyle you would like to see for your grandchildren when they grow up?
Response by His Majesty the Emperor

Since my Accession, I have fulfilled my official duties wishing to respond to the expectations of the people, seeking the most appropriate way to be an Emperor who is the symbol of the State and of the unity of the people, as stipulated in the Constitution of Japan. I believe that whether we would like to enjoy a "freer" lifestyle including traveling quite frequently, attending casual events and even bicycling in public is a matter that must be considered from the perspective I just described. The same holds true regarding relations with the people.

At any rate, I do not believe that the Imperial Family is today "cloistered" from the general public. It is true that under the Edo Shogunate which lasted from 1603 to 1867, the Emperor rarely left the Imperial Palace in Kyoto, and could be considered to have been "cloistered." However, since the days of the Meiji Emperor it has been customary for the Emperor to travel throughout the nation and I do not believe that "cloistered" would be an appropriate way to describe the situation.

I too, since my Accession, have visited 45 prefectures in Japan. I have been to some of these prefectures on several occasions due to my participation in events that have taken place. There remain two prefectures that I have not yet visited and I look forward to visiting all of them in the near future. I do believe that it is important for the Emperor in his status as symbol of the nation, to know our country and our people and to share the people's feelings. At the same time those experiences are a joy for me as well.

The question regarding the sort of lifestyle that I would like to see for our grandchildren when they grow up is dependent on the hopes that the people of that time will have for the Imperial Family then, and therefore I cannot answer your question now.

Response by Her Majesty The Empress

Cycling is something I enjoy, and often in Karuizawa and Nikko, together with His Majesty and our children, I would enjoy a bicycle ride through the town. However, I would be scared to cycle in Tokyo with this large volume of traffic, and I suspect that the people around me would also be uneasy.

It is probably true that participation in casual events or private travels have not happened very frequently in our life up to now.

The travels that we make are almost always official in nature, and usually during the course of a year we make four or five tours of the regions of Japan. Given the fact that Japan has many remote islands, and a mountainous topography, from time to time the distances we cover in our visits are very great. Since the time of our marriage, His Majesty and I continued these official trips every year, thus covering all the prefectures of Japan, visiting over 900 municipalities. Up to now, we have been to 20 islands, yet there are still many islands left which we think we should go to. Among them there is Miyakejima, where due to its prolonged volcanic activity we were unable to land, and instead made an aerial survey.

It is true that we do not have much freedom on these official trips, and there are also times when we feel tired, but these visits enable us to get acquainted with the regions of Japan and meet the many people who work in various areas. Exchanging smiles with the people we meet, gives us great joy that always transcends any fatigue we may feel.

When we shall have the leisure to do so, His Majesty and I shall travel privately. However, in order that we may get to know about the lives of the people, we would both like to continue our official visits as we always have done.

As for the times that our grandchildren will face, I can make no predictions. I can only hope that for them it will not be a time when restrictions are placed on them by their position too excessively, deforming the children's character, and posing obstacles to their development as individuals. If it can be avoided, even in a lifestyle that is not totally free, I believe that the children will be able to grow and develop at their ease. It is not beyond the bounds of imagination that some day, one of our grandchildren will be riding a bicycle freely through the busy streets of Tokyo.

Question 6
Your Majesties, the relation between the Imperial Family and Austria has lasted for a long time and has been very friendly. When you visit Austria this time, what is your primary intent and what kind of message from Japan would you like to convey to the Austrian people?
Response by His Majesty the Emperor

I am very much looking forward to this opportunity to visit Austria for the first time.

Although the time we spend in Austria will be mostly on a weekend, I am hoping to be able to appreciate its culture that is rich in history and its nature.

Austria is best known and loved most by Japanese for its music. Many Japanese are studying music or are actively engaged in musical performance in Austria. It was 1955 when diplomatic relations were reopened between Japan and Austria and in the following year, as I recall, the Vienna Boys' Choir visited Japan and made a deep impression on many Japanese. That was a time when few foreign musicians visited Japan. The Music Department of the Imperial Household Agency organized a concert for Empress Kojun and I, not yet married at that time, also attended this concert. In later years, when the Vienna Boys' Choir visited the Crown Prince's Residence, we thought that for the Choir just to perform for our family would be a wasted opportunity, and invited children from a Japanese choir and listened together with them. I am looking forward to enjoying once again a performance of the Vienna Boys' Choir, this time in Austria.

Skiing which is today very popular in Japan was brought to Japan by Major Theodor von Lerch of Austria, who taught the sport from 1911 to 1912 to the Japanese army and others in Takada in Niigata Prefecture and Asahikawa in Hokkaido. Even now, exchange with skiing communities in Austria is flourishing, and many Japanese have learned skiing from Austria.

There are other areas of continued exchange with Austria in the past. I hope that in the future exchange will be further broadened and that mutual understanding and friendly relations between the peoples of the two countries will be further deepened.

Response by Her Majesty The Empress

On the occasion of our State Visits to Poland and Hungary, on the first and middle weekends we will pay visits to the Czech Republic and Austria respectively. The Presidents of these two countries and their governments are being most kind and thoughtful in the preparations which I hear are underway for our visit, and I am most grateful to them.

We have had the pleasure of welcoming the Presidents of both the Czech Republic and Austria accompanied by their wives, who have paid State Visits to Japan in the past. On this occasion of our visit, we would like to offer them our greetings. Also, taking this opportunity we would like to meet with the people of both countries, and for that purpose a number of events have been incorporated into our schedule.

In Austria, a visit to the "Musikverein," from whom we had earlier received an invitation, has been incorporated into our schedule during our visit. I am very happy that we will at last be able to accept this invitation. In addition, on the invitation of His Excellency the President, we will visit the Schoenbrunn and Belvedere Palaces, and at Augarten we will meet the young members of the Vienna Boys' Choir. I feel as though I can already hear the voices of those young boys raised in song.

This is not an official message, but I would like to say how very much I am looking forward to this visit.

Related Question
My question is directed to His Majesty the Emperor. I understand that since attending the coronation of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in 1953, Your Majesty has visited a total of 50 countries, and the upcoming visit will add another four. Still, that said, there remain many countries that you have yet to visit. According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, counting only those countries that are members of the United Nations, there are 189 countries in the world. In the future, are there any countries, such as the Republic of Korea and the Russian Federation that you have not yet been to but would like to visit?
Response by His Majesty the Emperor

As I have responded in the past on several occasions, it is the government that considers my visits abroad and the government that makes decisions in that regard. It is true that invitations are extended by many foreigners, and in each instance a reply is made to that effect. I hope this answers your question.

provisional translation