Press Conference on the occasion of Her Majesty's Birthday (Written Answers) (1997)

Press Conference on the Occasion of Her Majesty's Birthday (1997)

I Regarding Her Majesty's thoughts or sentiments
Q I-1)
Looking back on the past year, what remains in Your Majesty's memory as most impressive?
A 1-1)

Such heart-rending occurrences as the hostage crisis at the Japanese Embassy in Peru, the Russian tanker's oil-spill accident, the crimes committed by the Kobe teenager, the forest fire still raging and causing havoc in Indonesia, and then, too, the deaths of Princess Diana, Mother Teresa, and Viktor Emil Frankl, the author of Night and Fog (Ein Psycholog Erlebt Das Konzentrationslager), come to mind.

The Peruvian incident still weighs heavily on my heart because of death and injury on the Peruvian side. At the same time I cannot forget that Mr. Minnig of the International Red Cross and others on the negotiating committee contributed to the solution of this incident by their past experience, expertise and personal character. With regard to the oil-spill accident, too, while hoping that such an accident will never happen again, I am full of deep admiration and respect for the patience and activity of the local people and the steady and unflagging aid offered by volunteers from all over the country. I shall keep long in mind and heart that even the stones on the many beaches of the Sea of Japan were wiped clean by their hands and restored to their former condition.

Q I-2)
What does Your Majesty find of greatest concern in the social conditions of today?
A I-2-a)

There are many problems , both past and present, that cannot be solved simply,that call for consideration from various points of view and for discussion among persons from widely different areas. When a complicated problem cannot immediately find a solution, I would wish our society to be such as can bear with patience and fortitude the burden of those complications.

A I-2-b)

With Japan entering a period when we shall have to come to grips with the problem of a rapidly aging population unexampled in other countries, I am concerned as to whether we can adequately cope with the situation. Again, in connection with the aging problem, the sharp decline in the birthrate is constantly brought up as the underlying problem. But I wonder if there has been enough discussion on fundamental matters such as: what would be the most desirable population, in scale and structure, for our people to continue living in the limited space of our land, while maintaining a good environment. Theproblem of population should definitely not be controlled by the government, but I think it would be meaningful for all individuals to be reminded as to what would be the ideal situation for society to arrive at, and to make this a kind of guiding principle.

II On Her Majesty's health
Q II-1)
Since the beginning of the year you seem, Your Majesty, to have suffered from constant coughing and, just after the imperial visit to South America, from herpes zoster. We wish to ask after the state of your health since then.
A II-1)

I caught two colds successively, one in Japan and one in South America. Fortunately this did not upset our schedule, but I regretted that it caused so many people anxiety and worry. My recovery from herpes zoster has been good and my physical strength is returning too.

Q II-2)
Please tell us what measures you ordinarily take to safeguard your health and what, if any, new measures to maintain health you have undertaken since your illness.
A II-2)

I have nothing new to add to the answers I have given on previous occasions.

Q II-3)
After your illness an Imperial Household Agency official admitted at a press conference that the schedule mapped out for the imperial visit to South America had been extremely heavy and that from now on they must see to it that Their Majesties are not overburdened. How do you think about the heavy daily demands of official duties includingtrips to other countries?
A II-3)

Because Japan is located in the Far East, Europe and the Americas are far away ,and one reason for our physical fatigue was the time it took to get there. This is nobody's fault. And this time, particularly in Brazil where many cities are scattered over the vast land, and where, in each of these, persons of Japanese extraction are engaged in centers of activity, it was our natural duty to visit them. If I may be permitted to express one wishful suggestion, it would, perhaps, have helped to have one day of rest, somewhere towards the middle of the fifteen days of our visit.

Our interest in communities of Japanese ancestry has been nurtured by every encounter we have had with them so far during our visits to Hawaii, North America, Mexico,Peru, Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay. Our visit this time brought back to me many memoriesof our first visit to the two countries thirty years ago, and I was often deeply moved by the evidence of progress and development made during those years, and also by the thought of those first generation Issei who served as foundation stones for this growth. Now, looking back, I realize that this kind of deep emotion could also have been a cause of fatigue.

As for our work here in Japan, besides attending the customary rites of the imperial court, presence at various kinds of memorial services, celebrations and events, audiences given to persons who have achieved distinction through meritorious service, i.e. all such duties, indispensable work for the imperial family, have greatly increased. Again, the number of guests from foreign countries, has increased due to the fact that the number of independent nations has more than doubled since l960 when I first became a member of the imperial family. Travelling back and forth, too, has become much easier and as a result we cannot help but be very busy. As for journeys within Japan, the Emperor wishes, in his position as emperor, to visit every prefecture of the country at the earliest opportunity, and while we have already visited the main islands, there remain some places, such as the Goto islands, still tobe visited. For some time yet, it is foreseeable that scheduled journeys like those we are making now, will continue. But because of our advancing age, I hope that overtaxing schedules may be avoided in future.

III Relating to the death of Diana, Princess of Wales
Q III-1)
What kind of conversations did you have with Princess Diana, who came to Japan three times? Please tell us your memories and impressions of her.
A III-1)

I first met Princess Diana at the time of her wedding. I attended the events connected with the marriage ceremony and when it was over and the horse-drawn carriage was leaving, I joined the families and relations in scattering confetti for the send-off. She was a most beautiful looking bride and I wished her happiness with all my heart. Later on she came to Japan three times and I saw her each time. Now, my heart goes out to her bereaved family in their sorrow and I only pray that the two young princes she left behind will grow up sound and healthy.

Q III-2)
Regarding the non-attendance of the Japanese imperial family at her funeral service, it seems that the Imperial Household Agency received over 80 telephone calls from the people, the majority expressing the opinion that they should have gone. How do you take this?
A III-2)

In concert with the Foreign Office and the Imperial Household Agency, the Government weighed the matter carefully and this was their conclusion. I too feel that this was the appropriate decision.

Q III-3)
Through the British Royal Family's handling of the situation and the reaction of the British people, did you come to think about how the Japanese Imperial Family should be? If so, please tell us about it.
A III-3)

Regarding the desirable mode of being of the Imperial Family, I do occasionally ponder the matter over, but not especially in connection with recent events. I would just say this: though not bound to them by blood, the Japanese Imperial Family has a long historyof good relations with the Royal Houses of Asia, the Middle East and Europe, our links being like family ties, so that we feel their joys and sorrows as something that touches us very closely. Whatever be the situation other Royal families are facing, I would like first to be with them in my thoughts and prayers, trying as much as possible to understand their difficulties.

IV Regarding Princess Nori's marriage
Q IV-1)
Regarding Princess Nori's marriage and future, would you like to give us your viewfrom a mother's standpoint?
A IV-1)

The answer I made in l994 to a similar question remains unchanged. With due regard for the Princess's personal feelings, I intend to go on quietly watching over her. I repeat myself but, Princess Nori brings many joys to our family; now, her future happiness is the heartfelt wish of all of us.

V About Press Conferences
Q V-1)
Every year the Palace Press Club makes a request for a press conference on Your Majesty's birthday but so far this has not been granted, the Imperial Household Agency giving the pretext that press conferences are carried out before overseas imperial visits and soon. What does Your Majesty think is the significance of press conferences for you? Also, does Your Majesty have any ideas on the most appropriate way to conduct press conferences?
A V-1)

To be quite frank, press conferences sometimes seem to present great difficulties forme. For one thing, there is the matter of not being able to put my own thoughts into adequate words. This is perhaps due to the fact that in response to a particular question, mythoughts may not yet be fully developed and mature and may thus emerge in a vague, uncertain form. It has happened a number of times up to now, that I have understood my own thinking about something for the first time, on being questioned about it. In that sense, the significance press conferences have for me, is perhaps that as well as transmitting my thoughts to others, when pressed by the necessity of putting them into adequate words, I am able to clarify and confirm them anew for myself.

As for the desirable or appropriate form of press conferences, as yet I have formed no solid opinion, but when only a part of an answer is reported out of context, distorting the general intent, or again, when no indication of the kind of question it is responding to is given, so that one's answer may sound somewhat abrupt, this is very painful for me.