Press Conference on the occasion of Her Majesty's Birthday (Written Answers) (2007)

Her Majesty's Answers to Questions by the Press on the Occasion of Her Seventy-third Birthday, 2007, and the Activities of Her Majesty the Empress over the Past One Year

A recent Portrait of Their Majesties the Emperor and Empress
(Photo:Imperial Household Agency)

Her Majesty's Answers to Questions by the Press on the Occasion of Her Seventy-third Birthday, 2007

Question 1
Princess Aiko, the daughter of Their Imperial Highnesses the Crown Prince and Crown Princess, will be entering elementary school next spring. She is now having increasing opportunities for social activities such as riding buses or trains. Prince Hisahito, the eldest son of Their Imperial Highnesses Prince and Princess Akishino marked his first birthday in September and is growing in sound health. Seeing his older sisters Princess Mako and Princess Kako care for him lovingly must be a source of encouragement and joy for Princess Kiko. As you watch the grandchildren grow, and look back on your own experience of child rearing, could you tell us your thoughts and any advice you might have, and how Your Majesties share your time with both families.
Answer 1

It gives me great pleasure to see all my four grandchildren growing up so splendidly under the care of their parents. Mako and Kako have started senior and junior high school respectively this year, while Aiko will be entering elementary school next year. Hisahito is also growing and in good health, having just turned one in September. I can still remember the morning that he was born. We were greatly concerned about Princess Akishino as the birth was expected to be complicated due to partial placenta previa, but we were away on a trip and I recall how anxiously we waited for the news from Tokyo to arrive! It all seems like yesterday.

As for the question regarding my comments or advice as I look back on my own days of parenting, and watch the grandchildren grow, I must say, those days were a long time ago …

However, each time I see my grandchildren, I think that there is a special feeling that is different from the joy I felt as a mother. While there is also something of the emotions I experienced as a mother, as I now see it from the new perspective of a grandmother, there is a particular sense of joy and satisfaction every time I watch the children interact as they play and take care of each other. Aiko looks so happy when she is playing with Mako and Kako. Mako and Kako, too, while they treat Aiko with such care, at the same time, treat her with the special intimacy that only children themselves can share, which I feel, is different from the way we adults approach children. With Hisahito, also, the two elder sisters are like two little mothers who look after him. To watch them hold Hisahito and change his clothes so attentively but with such ease as if they were experienced mothers, or to see the way little Aiko approaches Hisahito, who is smaller than herself, and gently touches his hand?I feel they are so sweet and seeing them gives me great delight.

During our morning stroll the other day, I found a small Job's Tear plant. As His Majesty and I picked some of the grains from that plant, I recalled playing with the grains in the countryside when I was evacuated from Tokyo during the war. If we continue to pick the grains every year, when Aiko grows older and is able to use a needle and thread, we may be able to make a necklace together. Interacting with nature and traditional handcraft like origami and cat's cradle are things I can teach my grandchildren, but there are also things I can learn from them, for example, riding a unicycle, although I won't be taking it up as His Majesty sensibly advised me against it! All my interactions with the children are truly enjoyable and I trust we shall always continue to find time to see each other.

Question 2
This past June, His Imperial Highness the Crown Prince underwent surgery to remove a duodenal polyp. Her Imperial Highness the Crown Princess Masako has significantly expanded the scope of her activities in the past year, including official duties involving overnight stays in Nara and Nagano Prefectures; however, she has not yet returned to attend events such as ritual ceremonies at the Palace Sanctuary. What are the indications that make Your Majesty feel that the Crown Princess is recovering? Please share with us any thoughts you have as you watch over Their Imperial Highnesses, as well as your thoughts about what they should undertake first as representatives of the next generation of the Imperial Family.
Answer 2

I was told that surgery to remove a duodenal polyp requires utmost attention, so I was very much concerned, but thanks to the medical personnel involved, everything went smoothly, for which I am most grateful. I was relieved to see that he was in good health during his trip to Mongolia following the operation, and I am glad that his health remains robust.

I am also asked for my thoughts on the condition of the Crown Princess and what I believe is important for the couple to undertake as their next priority. However, now that she seems to be on her way to recovery, which for me is such a joy, I would simply like to continue praying for the full recovery of the Crown Princess, and intend to watch quietly over her and the Crown Prince and give them all my support.

Question 3
Please tell us about the events that left the greatest impression on Your Majesty at home and abroad in the last 12 months. As in the previous year, Your Majesty attended lessons at the Music Festival in Kusatsu and performed with world-renowned musicians. What role does music play in Your Majesty's life? Also, if you have added any new interests or hobbies to the ones you already have, could you share them with us?
Answer 3-1

In April, there was the earthquake on the Noto Peninsula, followed by the Niigata-ken Chuetsu-oki Earthquake in July. There were areas around the country which were struck by intense winds and rain, as well as the tornado in November 2007. We had a very long, hot summer this year. I feel that numerous unusual phenomena occurring around the globe clearly indicate that global warming is becoming an urgent issue.

As the birth rate falls and our society ages, people are seriously concerned about such issues as pensions and nursing care.

There are many incidents that indicate that dangers exist surprisingly close to the ordinary lives of the people, and they are concerned about their personal safety in many different areas. A shortage of doctors at hospitals around the country, and in particular that of gynecologists and obstetricians, is but one example. I am deeply concerned about how we can ensure the safety of women giving birth.

This year saw the passing of many memorable figures such as Mr. Kazuo Saikawa, the Honorary Chairman of the National Sanatorium Okinawa Airakuen, who led the way for patients with Hansen's Disease to receive medical care at home, Mr. Gaishi Hiraiwa, a Special Advisor to the Imperial Household Agency, and Ms. Katsuko Saruhashi, a meteorologist who worked hard to support women scientists and to improve their social position, as well as Mr. Itaru Watanabe, a pioneer of molecular biology in Japan who guided and supported researchers in this relatively new field.

A picture appeared in the newspaper this August alongside the obituary of a US Army cameraman who filmed the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki after the dropping of the atomic bombs. It was one of his pictures that bore the title, “A Boy Standing at a Cremation Site,” showing a young boy standing upright, carrying his dead younger brother on his back. To this day the image is still vivid in my mind. Wars are still being fought around the world, and my thoughts and prayers go out for the restoration of peace in those places. At the same time I pray for the safety of Japanese nationals who are now living and working abroad.

Answer 3-2

First there were all those years when I continued to play music, though only in a very limited way, and then one day I realized that music had come to be something that I liked very much and which was very important for me. Although my technique is limited, I have been overly blessed with many opportunities to play with musicians from Japan and abroad, and I am deeply grateful for the friendship of those with whom I have enjoyed practising, which is an opportunity to seek out my own personal sound amidst the beautiful sound that they create. I am happy for every opportunity that I am given.

Answer 3-3

I should like to mention one item which is not new but related to what I have long been concerned about. Next year marks the centennial of the emigration to Brazil by Japanese nationals. Unfortunately, I will not be able to travel to Brazil this time, but here in Japan together with His Majesty the Emperor, I will reflect upon the hardships endured by the Japanese nationals who emigrated to various regions around the world, and I will pray for the happiness of those people in their newly adopted countries. Today, 100 years later, more than 300,000 immigrants from South America are estimated to be living in Japan. I hope that they will overcome the difficulties of living far away from home, and be welcomed warmly by Japanese society as our emigrants were, and my heart goes out to those people.