A great many incidents occurred over the last year too, both in Japan and internationally. While I take interest in world events, such as the political changes and reforms taking place throughout the world, and how they will develop from now on, I do not intend to touch upon them here.
Here in Japan, many natural disasters have unfortunately occurred including the eruption of Mt. Usu, the earthquakes on Kozujima, Niijima and other islands, the eruption of Mt. Oyama on Miyakejima, the torrential rains in the Tokai region and the earthquake in Western Tottori Prefecture, exposing many people in these regions to danger. I grieve for the victims of these disasters, and am deeply concerned for those who suffered damage and those who even now continue to endure such difficult conditions. The evacuation of all the islanders of Miyakejima came during the hottest time of the year. The winter cold about to set in fills me with great concern for them, and I pray that they will all stay in good health.
Whenever these disasters occur, I always realize how significant the unacclaimed work that is constantly carried out, such as volcanic observation, can be at a time of energency. I sincerely hope that the cooperation between the experts who are deeply involved in regions and are highly familiar with the nature of the land, and the local government supporting their research and utilizing the results of such reseach, will enable the residents in the respective regions to be protected from danger.
From May to June, I accompanied His Majesty the Emperor as State Guests to the Kingdom of the Netherlands and the Kingdom of Sweden, stopping over on the way in the Swiss Confederation and the Republic of Finland.
I had apprehensions about the visit to the Netherlands, where some hard feelings over World War II still linger. Now that the visit has ended safely, I keenly appreciate just how much this visit was strongly supported by the friendship forged over nearly forty years between His Majesty the Emperor and Her Majesty Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands, the many efforts exerted on the part of Her Majesty the Queen for our visit, and the results of the earnest efforts made by both our peoples over long years at both the state level and personal level.
Her Majesty the Empress Dowager passed away in June. His Majesty's memorial address on the day of the Funeral and Entombment, delivered against the sound of a wet wind blowing, still now echoes in my ears.
The Sydney Olympic Games were held this September, with a large number of Japanese competitors actively taking part. And I am now looking forward to news of the Paralympic Games.
In October it was reported that Professor Emeritus Hideki Shirakawa had been awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. I am proud of the fact that Japan has a high level of expertise in material science, in the fundamental field of chemistry.
I have long been concerned about how the nursing care insurance system, which was implemented in April this year, would be administered in municipalities large and small, and how it would be applied in depopulated areas. I hope that this new system, while at all times adding necessary improvements, will be nurtured into one that will firmly bolster Japanese society from now on as it continues to age.
I am not particularly conscious that we are entering into a new century. While continuing to observe and give due importance to the traditions which have been handed down from past generations, including the performance of religious ceremonial rites, I hope to act in accordance with His Majesty's wishes for the Imperial Family and will try to respond to the needs of the times and the wishes of the people.
It is still only a short time since the demise of Empress Kojun, I am not yet able to fully express my thoughts in words. I deeply cherish the memory of all that Empress Kojun has bestowed upon me in the more than forty years I spent by her side.
Although in her last years I was unable to converse with her, the moments spent together with the Empress Dowager when I visited the Fukiage Residence with His Majesty the Emperor were a precious time for me each weekend, and when I think about it, it was as if the whole week at the Imperial Residence revolved around those times. During these past eleven years of the Heisei era, the Empress Dowager always supported me reassuringly just by being there. Now that she has passed away, I feel so sad and bereft.
To respond to your question about lasting impressions that have been left on me, the abiding memory that I will never forget is of accompanying the Empress Dowager to the Tama Mausoleum when I was Crown Princess, soon after entering the Imperial Family. It was the plum season and after returning from our visit of the Mausoleum, I was invited to join Emperor Showa, the Empress Dowager and His Majesty the Emperor - who was Crown Prince at the time - in picking up small plums in the garden in front of the Detached Pavilion. Hearing the laughter of the Empress Dowager that day as the bright sun shone down, I felt that from then on I would follow this Lady wherever She might go. Even now I hold the memories of that day close to my heart, as a day to remember, just for me.
A miscarriage is a truly sad thing no matter how many children a person has, and I believe that no-one can fully imagine from outside the feelings of the Crown Princess at having to endure such an experience with her first pregnancy. I hope that she will take good care of herself and spend her days in good spirit.
At present both the crown Prince and Princess are being aided by their own independent organization called the Crown Prince's Office. I am not sure how I can personally be of help in some way, but I wish the Princess to know that I shall always be available for her if she feels the need to talk. Even if I am unable to provide advice at such times, I believe that it is one of the duties of the older generation to listen to the younger generation and it is in such a manner that I shall try always to be at her side.
I have full confidence in the Crown Prince and Princess and I believe they will go on living their lives with fortitude and courage, through the irreplaceable young days of their 30s and 40s, as they accumulate experiences of many kinds.