Press Conference on the occasion of Her Majesty's Birthday (Written Answers) (1998)

Press Conference on the Occasion of Her Majesty's Birthday (1998)

We are now ten years into the Heisei Era, and next year will mark full forty years since your wedding. At this important juncture, would you please share with us your thoughts as you look back on the road traveled thus far? Also, please tell us, beginning with your official duties, what directions you aspire to follow in the days ahead.

(Regarding the 10th year of Heisei)
These ten years of Heisei have gone by so fast, I have not yet found time to think back on them quietly. I have spent them in the hope that I might be of some service to the country, but I think there must have been many things that left something to be desired. As for this important point in time, I would like to reflect anew and deeply on the benevolence of earlier successive reigns, and I pray that the Heisei Era will go forward safely.

(Regarding our fortieth wedding anniversary)
I have come this road so far, enveloped in the broad and affectionate understanding of His Majesty, who at all times took me just as I was. Also, I always had the example of the former Emperor and the Empress Dowager to look up to, and I could have had no higher happiness. I feel I have reached this day thanks to the support and help of a great many people.

(Regarding the days ahead)
My present life, which has taken shape bit by bit over the past forty years, is not likely, I think, to change much from now on. Unaltered from heretofore, I intend to go on carrying out at His Majesty's side, the duties allotted to me, one by one. In the new century opening up before us, I think it likely that people, as well as taking a fresh look at family values, will go beyond the framework of the family in solidarity with society at large, and that the new age will be one of greater mutual help and caring. Within this new, strong frame of solidarity, I hope to live the same age, continually attentive to occurrences in society, helping and receiving help from people.

We see the personality of Her Imperial Highness Princess Nori being more and more enhanced by her pursuit of scholarly studies together with her practice of classical Japanese Dance. In conjunction with this, public interest in her eventual marriage seems to be rising. Would Your Majesty please tell us what you think of the marriage prospects of Her Imperial Highness who will be thirty next year? Do you give her any special advice?

There is no change in the answer I have been giving to this question up to now.

Ever since the day she was born, Princess Nori has been a source of joy and delight to all of us. Our whole family is at one in desiring happiness for her.

As a "spouse", as a "mother" and as a "grandmother", what are the things that now bring you joy, and what are the things that cause you anxiety?

Since these are matters that concern our intimate family circle...

Let me just say that from now on as heretofore, I will be glad if I can be of help in any situation involving my various positions as stated above.

I believe that as Empress, you put your whole heart and soul into the way you receive State Visitors. With regard to the recent state visit to Japan of South Korean President Kim Dae-jung and Mrs. Kim (a.k.a. Lee Hee Ho), could you please tell us what was your special care in welcoming them, and what impression they made on you when you met them?

(Regarding the manner of receiving State Guests)
Since State Guests are received by His Majesty in his capacity as symbol of the nation, they must always be welcomed wholeheartedly and accorded due importance. I remember the words that His Majesty said to me very shortly after I entered the Imperial Family, concerning the proper basic attitude for receiving such guests; namely, that it was extremely important to extend the very same welcome to all countries. This might seem to go without saying, but in actual fact there are times when the relations between Japan and a given foreign country, or differences in the way the people feel an interest in a country, or the number of persons who turn out to welcome a state guest, or the degree and kind of media reporting may bring out differences. This being the reality, I feel strongly the necessity of always bearing in mind the importance for the Imperial Family of abiding by the above principle, and I extend to each and every guest the same wholehearted welcome.

(Regarding President Kim Dae-jung)
I was deeply impressed by the President whose strength of conviction had brought him through long years of great hardship, during which he cultivated in himself a serene philosophy of generous-hearted forbearance.

Finally, please tell us your thoughts as you look back on the year past. When we think of Your Majesty's personal appearances, such as your joining the crowd in the 'wave' at the Winter Olympics Stadium in Nagano, or your participation in the World Congress held in New Delhi of the International Board on Books for Young People(IBBY) for which you delivered the keynote speech through the medium of a video recording, it seems to have been a very busy year for you, both in the private and public spheres.

The economic situation continuing to give much cause for anxiety : the torrential rains concentrated in a short period of the summer, that left widespread damage in their wake, including loss of life: these caused me great distress of heart. As for memories of brighter events during the year, there are the Nagano Winter Olympics, the soccer World Cup, and the public declaration of the restoration of Okushiri Island. At the Paralympics that followed the Nagano Olympics, I was thinking of the many people who had devoted themselves in a groping effort to clear the field for the Tokyo Paralympics when sports for the disabled were still at a very early stage.

Whether in the regular Olympics or the Paralympics, our Japanese athletes competed splendidly. Both those who won prizes and those who did not, all showed beauty and individuality, and even now from time to time a number of exciting scenes come back to mind.

As for world events, the establishment by the European Union of a single currency for Europe: the Northern Ireland peace agreement: the terrible tsunami in Papua New Guinea: the birth of Dolly the cloned sheep and so on, leave an impression on me. I mourn the passing of Dr. Kenichi Fukui and Yutaka Akino who contributed to the world in the fields of scholarship and peacekeeping, and also of Professor Shinichi Suzuki who, through music, gave to the children of the world the joy that makes the self to grow.

In early summer, accompanying His Majesty, I went on a State visit to the United Kingdom and to Denmark (with on the way, a visit to Portugal). In Britain, there was the protest movement of the former prisoners of war, and I spent the days of travel thinking of the many kinds of suffering that one war brings with it. I also thought keenly of the sufferings experienced during that last world war by our own Japanese people who were imprisoned. I feel I must go on praying for peace, never forgetting those who, whether foreign or our own, have suffered grievous wounds or pain.

(Regarding the 'wave')
It was the first time I ever saw or did the wave. This strange wave came to a halt a few times just a little way from us, on our right. Since the children on our left kept looking rather anxiously in our direction, I got the feeling that somehow or other, I must connect with them, so, with His Majesty's permission, I joined in. When we had gone the remaining half circle, I myself was greatly amused on the opposite side, by the music-students in the brass band, hopping and leaping about with tubas and horns, etc. Wanting to see more, I joined several of the succeeding waves.

(Regarding the IBBY keynote speech)
Close to the date of the Congress, it became necessary to cancel my projected visit. I could not stop worrying that this would cause great inconvenience to the ladies of the Indian branch of IBBY, but fortunately thanks to the help of many people, I was able to participate by video link. I was so relieved.