Press Conference on the occasion of Her Majesty's Birthday (Written Answers) (2014)

Her Majesty the Empress's Answers to Questions by the Press on the Occasion of Her 80th Birthday 2014, and the Activities of Her Majesty the Empress over the Past Year

a Portrait of Her Majesty
A Recent Portrait of Her Majesty the Empress
(Photo:Imperial Household Agency)

Her Majesty's Answers to Questions by the Press on the Occasion of Her 80th Birthday 2014

Question 1
On the occasion of Your Majesty's 80th birthday, sanju, would Your Majesty tell us of Your thoughts and impressions as You look back on Your 80 years?
Answer 1

The earliest memories of my childhood, until around the age of ten before the war situation deteriorated, were how I spent almost every day playing outside under the sun. In particular, I often recall how I followed my older brother and cousins to the seaside in summer, and how I never tired of watching them eagerly hunt for insects among the trees. I also have memories of my moments alone, such as when, gazing idly at the hemp palm tree, Trachycarpus excelsus, in the garden, I was taken by surprise by the bright colours of a jewel beetle, Chrysochroa fulgidissima, which suddenly flew out of it; or, when I was mesmerized by the beauty of a Japanese moon moth, Actias artemis, which had wandered into the laundry room one day. When I think back on those memories, I feel that many of the things that left strong impressions on me as a young child were related to Nature and its creatures.

My subsequent days in evacuation in the countryside were a far cry from the tranquil life I had led until then. But when I think of the local teachers who had taken under their wings all the children who had suddenly been moved there from the cities during this period, I can now only imagine how difficult it must have been for them, too.

Postwar Japan had many complicated aspects, which even an elementary schoolchild could see and feel, and this was a very emotionally trying time for me. Having remained in the countryside for some time after the war ended, I returned to Tokyo in the third term of my sixth-grade year. By then I had changed schools five times in the nearly three years during and after the war, and each time I entered a new school, I found it difficult to adapt to the different speed with which the subjects were being taught. For many years this left me with an insecure feeling that there was something lacking in my basic academic skills. Many years later, after my marriage, I came across a poem in a newspaper, written by a woman - I thought perhaps she, too, had grown up during the war. The latter part of the poem went, "Many a thing I do not know / Even though I am now a mother." I was relieved to see that I was not alone in my feelings and I felt an affinity towards the person who wrote it.

Since becoming a member of the Imperial Family, I have spent my days under the protective guidance of the late Emperor Showa and the late Empress Kojun, with His Majesty, who has led me and shown me the way at all times to this day. From the late Emperor Showa and the late Empress Kojun, who experienced much over the course of the long Showa era, I learned so much each time I spent time by Their side. Many years ago, on a late afternoon in Nasu, the children and I lit some paper lanterns and accompanied His Majesty, who was then the Crown Prince, down the slope from the annex villa to visit the Imperial Villa, where the wild mountain lilies were in full bloom. This summer, I walked along the very same path with His Majesty, fondly recalling those memories.

As parents, we tend to think that our children will always be with us, but as the years passed, all three of our children, each having found a partner in life, left our household, one by one. They are much different in character but all very dear to me. Though I thought I have given each my love and affection and raised them with loving care, I suppose there are probably many things I could have done more. I am grateful, however, that the children have made their own efforts to compensate for my inadequacies and grown into mature adults.

Over the years, in fulfilling both my role in managing my home, including raising the children, and my official role in carrying out my duties, I have constantly received help and cooperation from so many members of the staff. I have also been given support by the people who have always watched over me. One morning, after His Majesty's surgery, as His Majesty and I were walking in the town of Hayama, a man who seemed to be on his way to work stopped his car a little ahead of us, evidently having noticed us when he was coming from behind us. He crossed the street, walked up to us, and cheerfully said, "Your Majesty, we're so glad all went well" before running back to his car. Those words left me with a deep sense of happiness.

It has given me joy that His Majesty was able to celebrate His 80th birthday in good health last year, thanks to the thoughts and prayers of countless number of people. In the more than 50 years that I have spent by His side, His Majesty has always remained modest and humble, and He has constantly guided me and the children, at times strictly, but always with a generous heart. This, I believe, is what has allowed me to come this far.

My mother and father, who gave me life 80 years ago, have already passed away, and I have now overtaken my mother's age when she passed away. I have memories of the morning of my marriage, of my mother embracing me without a word. My father's advice to me was, "Live in accordance with the wishes of His Majesty the Emperor, and the Crown Prince." Those memories and words have always supported me and guided me. I believe that they will continue to do so in the days ahead.

Question 2
Over the years, Your Majesty, with His Majesty the Emperor, has continued to make many trips both in Japan and abroad to pay respects to those who lost their lives in the war. As the number of people in Japan who have never experienced war continues to grow, could you tell us Your thoughts as we commemorate the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II next year?
Answer 2

In August this year, a ceremony was held in Europe to commemorate the centennial of the start of World War I. I was moved to see the heads of states of countries which had fought one another as enemies in two world wars, World War I and World War II, coming together in one place and sharing their hopes of building a peaceful world in the future.

Even today, I cannot forget the intense fear that I felt one day soon after the end of the War upon hearing the sentencing of Class A war criminals over the radio. I was still in junior high school then and knew little about the reasons and circumstances leading to the war and to Japan's defeat. As such, my emotions at the time could not have been anything akin to acrimony for the individual war criminals. Rather, I think it was a shuddering sense of apprehension at the realization that there are those in positions who could be held responsible for the country and its people, something above and beyond the individual.

I cannot say that I thought about war and peace constantly in those years after the war. But the memories of the war and of the post-war years remain indelible in my mind. As I may have mentioned before, much later as an adult, each time I reached a milestone age, I have often reflected on what life must have been like for those who reached those milestone ages during the war.

In my younger days, when I was still Crown Princess, the grand master of the Board of the Crown Prince's Household at the time showed me a book sent by its author who had requested that I read through it, too. It was a collection of waka poems by people who had been detained in Siberia for many years. One poem, in particular, touched my heart. The poet said that while his hopes of going back to Japan grew stronger than ever, he saw that the bracken shoots had once again fully grown into fern leaves and realized that another spring was passing by. Since then, I have become attentive to the fate of former detainees as well as those settlers, mostly farmers, who were in northeast Asia at the end of the war, and the hardships that they continued to endure even after their return to Japan.

I was recently struck by a story I read in the newspaper about a former detainee in Khabarovsk who had passed away after spending more than a decade compiling a list of those who had died in detainment in Siberia, their names, the places of their death and other information, with as much accuracy as possible. The story reminded me of the long postwar history of each person who experienced war and each person who lost family members in the war.

In World War II, nearly one million people perished on Japanese soil, including the islands. An unbelievable number of civilian vessels were drafted, and as many as sixty thousand civilian seamen died when their vessels were sunk while transporting soldiers, civilian military employees, and supplies. I learned about this when I attended a memorial service for them at Kannonzaki in 1971, and I have visited the site with His Majesty several times since then. I believe that next year, the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, will be a year when we will all think about what life must have been like for many people during and after the war.

While many of the conflicts around the world have been repeated in the name of retaliation of one form or another, I feel great respect for the Japan War-Bereaved Families Association, which has consistently engaged in activities aimed towards a peaceful world, free of war. We must realize their ardent wish for peace, born of their own painful experiences. To that end, I believe it is important for all of us today who are enjoying the benefits of peace to continue to make every effort to nip the buds of conflict and suffering both in Japan and abroad, and to always aspire strongly towards peace in the world.

Question 3
Your Majesty has always been fond of music, art, poetry, and various forms of art and culture. Could You tell us what art and culture mean to Your Majesty and what has been your attitude towards art and culture as you approached them?
Answer 3

I have never given much thought to the question of what the arts - music, painting, and poetry, as asked in the question - mean to me. Perhaps I can say that "my encounters with the arts have given me joy and amazement in such a way that thereafter they have in some way influenced how I feel and think about things." As a child, I recall my parents appreciating and enjoying the arts as much as circumstances allowed and I think that by watching them, I slowly grew to develop a desire and interest in the arts in a similar way. After the war, either one of my parents would sometimes, though not frequently, take me to concerts at the Hibiya Public Hall. At the Maruzen bookstore, I would take the art books in my hand, fascinated by the beauty of the paintings. There were books in my father's sunlit study... I think all these things were the modest starting point of my interest in art and literature.

For a long time after the war, our family had very little opportunity to take family trips, and it was not until I was in university, or perhaps it was after I graduated, that I first had the opportunity to take a short family trip to Kyoto together with my parents, my younger sister, and younger brother. Unfortunately, however, it was not till after my marriage that I got to know Nara. After my marriage to the then Crown Prince, I was finally able to visit the cultural sites of Asuka and Nara, which I had long wished to see. I saw the lands that had given birth to the ancient songs and waka poems of the Manyoshu collection. There I was amazed to see that Yamato Sanzan, the "three peaks of Yamato" which were described as mountains in the poems were actually more like "three low hills"; I experienced the deep serenity of Oomiwa Jinja, which enshrines the very mountain rising behind it; and I was charmed by the Hanashizume festival, a festival to still the spirits of falling petals, with its connection to that shrine. While I was still a student, I was unexpectedly given a copy of Nippon Chokoku, a book on Japanese sculpture from the Sogensha Selections series, as a gift from Mr. Takeshi Kobayashi, Director of the Nara National Research Institute for Cultural Properties. I was struck and amazed by the photos of the statues of Miroku Bosatsu (the bodhisattva Maitreya), Ashura (the Buddhist god Asura), and Nikko Bosatsu (the bodhisattva Suryaprabha), as well as the ornamental lanterns at Todai-ji Temple with their depictions of Gakuten, the goddess of music, and that may have been the reason behind my general fondness and interest in the culture of that historical era.

While there is culture visible to the eye, such as architecture, paintings, and sculpture, I am also drawn to some phenomena that I have come across almost by chance which made me realize that it, too, was what we may call culture. In 1967, on the occasion of my first visit to Brazil, I frequently heard tales of the way the first Japanese immigrants to Brazil, who had come to the port of Santos some 60 years earlier, impressed the local people with their orderly conduct upon arrival, and then later, with their hard work, diligence and honesty. It is said that the people of Brazil were amazed by the attitudes and qualities of the Japanese immigrants, viewing them as the expression of the culture of Japan. I was then filled with admiration and gratitude for these people who had travelled so far across the ocean from Japan in that era, and, at the same time, I felt deep respect and affection for the people of Brazil, who had long nurtured their culture of generosity, immediately accepting immigrants from another land, promptly recognizing and appreciating the good qualities in the immigrants they had accepted.

I feel that the characteristics of each country's unique culture can often be sensed on visiting the country. In all the nations I have visited I have encountered truly inspirational forms of culture. In particular, though, I will never forget my visit to Tanzania during the administration of President Julius Nyerere. I was profoundly moved by the words of President Nyerere and quite a few people not only in the capital but also in Zanzibar and Arusha whom I met. "We are still poor, but rather than seeing disparities arise among our people, we hope to grow more affluent all together," they said. I felt a rush of emotion when I heard those words. I believe that the feelings held as cherished beliefs by a significant number of people qualify as a form of that nation's culture as well.

From many years before the Great East Japan Earthquake, a junior high school in the city of Kamaishi in Iwate Prefecture regularly and continuously managed to educate its students on how to respond to tsunami. Three years ago, when the tsunami actually struck the city, a group of students who were then in the schoolyard ran straight for higher ground, as they had been taught. The rest of the students followed, thus saving their own lives. So that as many people as possible can be protected from disaster in the future, we must learn from each of the disasters that Japan has experienced in the past - as painful as it may be - to create a solid culture of resilience to disaster.

This year saw much to celebrate, but we also experienced many heartbreaking events, such as torrential rainstorms and volcanic eruption. I offer my prayers for the souls of the victims and give my thoughts to the deep sadness of those who have lost family members and the pain of those whose family members have not yet been found. And to those who have faced endless difficulties on the volcano while helping and searching for the victims, prefectural officials, members of the Self-Defense Forces, firefighters, police officers, medical personnel, and the health workers who have been constantly at the side of the families awaiting news of their loved ones, I also express my gratitude and deepest respect.


Recent Portraits of Her Majesty the Empress on the occasion of Her Majesty's Birthday

Activities of Her Majesty the Empress over the Past Year

Today Her Majesty the Empress celebrated sanju, Her 80th birthday.

Her Majesty has continued to stand by His Majesty's side this past year, offering Him Her support while carrying out Her duties on numerous occasions. Due to strong pain in Her left shoulder and left arm caused by cervical spondylotic radiculopathy, Her Majesty refrained from attending a Bunraku performance in May. Other than that one occasion, She did not cancel any official duties on account of Her indisposition.

During the past year, Her Majesty the Empress carried out Her duties in Her official capacity on 314 occasions. She received, in addition, on 61 occasions, those who offered the year's newly harvested rice, voluntary helpers at the Kashiko Dokoro (Palace Sanctuary) who serve at the ritual ceremonies of the Imperial Palace, and members of the Palace voluntary workforce.

With regard to the ritual ceremonies of the Imperial Palace, Her Majesty attended the Spring and Autumn Ceremonies of Koreisai at Koreiden and Shinden, and the Ceremony of the 100th Anniversary of the demise of Empress Shoken at Koreiden.

With regard to the Great East Japan Earthquake of March 2011, Her Majesty, together with His Majesty the Emperor, attended the Memorial Service to Commemorate the Third Anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake in March this year. In July, Their Majesties visited the town of Minami Sanriku and the city of Kesennuma in Miyagi Prefecture, where They received briefings from the governor of Miyagi Prefecture and others on topics including the status of the recovery efforts. They also visited a temporary shopping centre in Minami Sanriku and the restored fish market in Kesennuma. While in Miyagi Prefecture, Their Majesties visited the National Sanatorium Tohoku Shinsei-en in the city of Tome, where They laid flowers at the facility's memorial and conversed with the patients. With this visit, Their Majesties concluded Their visits of all 14 Hansen's disease sanatoriums throughout Japan, starting with Their visit to the National Sanatorium Amami Wako-en in the city of Amami in Kagoshima Prefecture in 1968, and met with the patients in all those facilities. Her Majesty also attended a special exhibition featuring ongoing efforts to restore historical and cultural artifacts damaged in the earthquake and tsunami, as well as charity concerts and charity film screenings in support of recovery efforts.

As for official regional visits, Her Majesty accompanied His Majesty the Emperor to Kumamoto Prefecture in October last year to attend the 33rd National Convention for the Development of an Abundantly Productive Sea. On that occasion, Their Majesties visited Kikuchi Keifu-en, a national sanatorium for Hansen's disease patients, where They conversed with the patients and laid flowers at the memorial. In addition, They laid flowers at the Memorial Monument for Minamata Disease Victims, visited the Minamata Disease Municipal Museum, and listened to the personal experiences narrated by victims. (Minamata disease is a neurological syndrome caused by severe mercury poisoning, first discovered in Minamata city in Kumamoto Prefecture. It was caused by the release of methylmercury in the industrial wastewater from Chisso Corporation's chemical plant, which continued from 1932 to 1968.) In March this year, Their Majesties paid Their respects at Ise Grand Shrine, where the Shikinen Sengu (rebuilding the shrine every 20 years) Ceremony took place last year. In May, They traveled to Niigata Prefecture to attend the National Arbor Day Festival. While there, Their Majesties visited the Ojiya Earthquake Museum Sonaekan, which tells of the damage and recovery from the Niigata Chuetsu Earthquake of 2004. They also visited Kuzumaki District Furusato Center in the city of Mitsuke, where They listened to reports on the status of recovery efforts in the aftermath of the torrential rains that struck Niigata and Fukushima Prefectures in July 2004, and visited the Kariyatagawa Disaster Prevention Park to observe the status of recovery from floods. In June, Their Majesties attended the opening ceremony and reception of the World Federation of Occupational Therapists Congress and the Japanese Association of Occupational Therapists, which were held in Yokohama, Kanagawa Prefecture, and viewed the exhibits. Their Majesties also visited Okinawa Prefecture on the 70th anniversary of the sinking of the ship Tsushima Maru, which had been transporting schoolchildren from Okinawa to Kagoshima, to pray for the repose of the souls of those who lost their lives. They paid their respects and laid flowers at Kozakura no To, the memorial to the victims of the Tsushima Maru, after which They visited the Tsushima Maru Memorial Museum and conversed with the victims' families and survivors. In October, Her Majesty, together with His Majesty, attended the National Sports Festival in Nagasaki Prefecture. As next year marks the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, Their Majesties laid flowers at Nagasaki Peace Park and visited the Megumi no Oka nursing home for atomic bomb survivors. The Nagasaki visit was originally planned as a three-day trip, but as Typhoon #19 (Typhoon Vongfong) was approaching, Their Majesties wished people to concentrate on preparing for the typhoon, so after attending the Opening Ceremony on the second day, They cancelled the rest of Their schedule and returned to Tokyo.

Within Tokyo, Her Majesty accompanied His Majesty on 42 official visits, including attendance at the Memorial Ceremony for the War Dead and the award ceremony for the International Prize for Biology. Her Majesty also made 25 official visits on Her own, including the annual meeting of the Japanese Red Cross Society, a craft exhibit of Asahide Gakuen, a school for children with special needs, and various events supporting the recovery from the Great East Japan Earthquake.

With regard to private trips, which They started taking last year, Their Majesties visited Watarase-yusuichi, a retarding basin for flood control, and the former Ashio Copper Mine in Tochigi Prefecture in May. They heard about measures to prevent toxic water from polluting downstream areas and about reforestation efforts in mountains where the trees were destroyed by poison gas from the mine and destructive lumbering. They also enjoyed the fresh greenery along the Watarase Keikoku Railway. In September, Their Majesties went to Aomori Prefecture, where they visited the Port of Hachinohe, which was damaged in the Great East Japan Earthquake, and listened to reports on the status of rebuilding efforts. They then took a walk along the Tanesashi Coast. On the next day, Their Majesties visited an apple farm in the city of Kuroishi and the Apple Institute of the Aomori Prefectural Industrial Technology Center.

During the past year, Their Majesties made official and private regional visits to twenty-five cities, four towns, and one village in twelve prefectures in all, excluding Their visits to the Imperial Villas for rest and recuperation.

At the Imperial Palace and Imperial Residence, together with His Majesty the Emperor, Her Majesty met with a number of people, including recipients of the Order of Culture and Persons of Cultural Merit, recipients of various ministers' awards, winners of the Emperor's Prize at the Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries Festival, recipients of the National Personnel Authority President Award, recipients of the Crown Prince Akihito Scholarship, which was established mainly by Japanese Americans in Hawaii to support exchange students in Japan and Hawaii in commemoration of Their Majesties' wedding in 1959, the Senior Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers, Senior Volunteers for Nikkei Communities, members of the Japan Academy and the Japan Art Academy, and prizewinners and officials of the Sochi Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games. Their Majesties offered encouragement and appreciation to those people who had made contributions to the development of such fields as culture, welfare, industry, international cooperation, academia, the arts, and sports. On Her own, Her Majesty, as the Honorary President of the Japanese Red Cross Society, heard reports from the president on its activities, as She does every year. She also received in audience the awardees of the annual "Nemunoki" (Silk Tree) Award, funded from the royalties donated by Her Majesty from the song "Lullaby under the Silk Tree," a lyric poem She wrote in Her high school days. The Award is given to those involved in helping children with severe mental and physical disabilities. These audiences totaled 47 occasions. In addition, Her Majesty, together with His Majesty, heard lectures and reports at the Imperial Residence on 54 occasions.

With regard to Japan's relations with other countries, from November to December last year, Her Majesty accompanied His Majesty the Emperor on a state visit to India, which celebrated the sixtieth anniversary of diplomatic relations with Japan in 2012. This was Their Majesties' second visit to India, Their first visit being 53 years ago, in 1960.

Their Majesties' visit started in Delhi, where Their Majesties attended the welcoming ceremony, met with His Excellency President Pranab Mukherjee and his daughter, Ms. Sharmistha Mukherjee, and attended a banquet hosted by His Excellency President Mukherjee. Their Majesties also accepted the invitation of the Honorable Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Ms. Gursharan Kaur, with whom They had been acquainted, for an intimate luncheon of four at their official residence. Their Majesties also took a walk in the Lodhi Gardens, where They met with many local people as well as Japanese nationals living in Delhi. At Jawaharlal Nehru University, in addition to observing a class in the Japanese Language Department, Their Majesties visited the library to see some of its collection and conversed with the students. At the India International Centre, Their Majesties met with those who have been working hard to promote friendly relations between India and Japan. Among them were individuals who had invited Her Majesty to be the keynote speaker at the 1998 International Congress of IBBY, the International Board on Books for Young People, in New Delhi. Although the visit was canceled at the last minute due to India's political stance at the time, the keynote speech in English, titled "Reminiscences of Childhood Readings," was videotaped and sent to the Congress. At the New Delhi Japanese School, Their Majesties were welcomed by a performance of Japanese drums and dance by the pupils. At the Japanese Ambassador's residence, Their Majesties, together with the embassy members and the local staff, admired the bo tree, Ficus religiosa, which They had planted 53 years ago as a sapling, met with representatives of the Japanese community, and attended a reception hosted by the Ambassador and his wife.

In Chennai, the capital of the state of Tamil Nadu, which Their Majesties visited for the first time, They met with the Governor, His Excellency Dr. Konijeti Rosaiah, and the Chief Minister of the state, Ms. Jayaram Jayalalithaa, and attended a luncheon hosted by the Governor. They visited the Kalakshetra Cultural Academy, where They enjoyed the traditional music and dance of Southern India. At the Tamil Nadu Udavikkaram Association for the Welfare of the Differently Abled, Their Majesties observed the rehabilitation exercise and vocational training of children with disabilities. Their Majesties also took a walk in the Children's Park in Guindy National Park, where They met school children, students, and local people, and at the hotel where They were staying, They attended a tea for Japanese nationals.

Her Majesty, together with His Majesty, welcomed as state guests to Japan, His Excellency Mr. Truong Tan Sang, President of the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam, and Madam Mai Thi Hanh in March, and the Honorable Barack H. Obama, the President of the United States of America, in April. For these state guests, Their Majesties attended the welcoming ceremony, had a meeting, held a banquet at the Palace, and visited their lodgings to say farewell. Their Majesties also met His Excellency President Didier Burkhalter and the First Lady of Switzerland, His Excellency President Christopher J. Loeak and the First Lady of the Marshall Islands, and His Excellency President Toomas Hendrik Ilves and the First Lady of Estonia. They received in audience His Excellency Prime Minister Viktor Orbán of Hungary and Ms. Anikó Lévai, His Excellency Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey and Mrs. Erdoğan, and His Excellency Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel and Mrs. Netanyahu. In addition, Their Majesties hosted luncheons at the Imperial Residence for Her Royal Highness Princess Chulabhorn Walailak of Thailand and Their Royal Highnesses the Hereditary Grand Duke and Duchess of Luxembourg, and held teas at the Imperial Residence for Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, Consort of the Father Emir of the State of Qatar, and Her Imperial and Royal Highness Princess Maria Laura of Belgium. Their Majesties also invited to tea at the Imperial Palace 14 national leaders, their spouses, and others in Japan for the Japan-ASEAN Commemorative Summit.

During the past year, Their Majesties continued to strengthen the ties with the diplomatic corps serving in Tokyo. They invited to tea the newly appointed ambassadors and their spouses, representing 15 countries, and to luncheon the ambassadors and their spouses who had been in Japan for three years or longer, representing 16 countries, and granted farewell audiences to ambassadors and their spouses from 13 countries upon completion of their assignments. Her Majesty joined His Majesty in meeting Japanese ambassadors and their spouses departing for overseas posts in 45 countries. They also invited to tea ambassadors and their spouses returning to Japan from 51 countries, and heard accounts of their experiences in the countries to which they had been assigned.

On June 8 this year, His Imperial Highness Prince Yoshihito of Katsura passed away. In deep sorrow, Their Majesties went into mourning for five days, sharing in the grief of the bereaved family. In the period immediately after his passing, Their Majesties visited his home and the Akasaka East Residence four times. After the funeral rites and the ceremony to mark the 100th day of his passing, They paid official visits to the Toshimagaoka Cemetery to pay Their respects.

At Imperial Palace events, Her Majesty always takes special care to look after the aging Imperial Highnesses Prince and Princess Mikasa, the younger brother of Emperor Showa and His wife, and His Imperial Highness Prince Hitachi, who now has slight difficulty walking.

This year, the annual Imperial sericulture work began in April, and besides the regular ceremonial events during that period, Her Majesty managed to find time to make a total of 17 visits to the places concerned, including the mulberry fields on the Palace grounds, the chamber for breeding wild silkworms, and the Imperial Cocoonery, where Her Majesty took part in the work of tending to and harvesting the wild silkworm cocoons, picking mulberry leaves and feeding them to the silkworms, making straw cocooning frames, spinning the cocoons, harvesting the cocoons, and trimming them. This year, the Agency for Cultural Affairs held an exhibition titled "KAIKO: Sericulture of the Imperial Household, Ancient Textiles from the Shosoin Repository, and Exchanges of Silk between Japan and France" at the Maison de la Culture du Japon à Paris in France from February 19th to April 5th. The exhibition offered a broad view of the sericulture of Her Majesty and the traditions and culture of the Imperial Household. It was reported that visitors viewing the DVD were surprised to learn that Her Majesty handles the silkworms with Her bare hands as She cultivates them.

While dealing patiently with physical problems, such as pain and numbness caused by cervical spondylotic radiculopathy and occasional difficulties when walking, Her Majesty carries out Her daily duties with little change to Her usual schedule. While watching over His Majesty's condition, She also cares for Her own health, heeding the advice of the court physician. As Their Majesties consider it important to maintain a regular lifestyle, They adhere to a daily routine of rising at six o'clock, watching the morning news, taking a walk in the garden, and having breakfast at seven o'clock.

When Her Majesty the Empress has time to Herself, She enjoys reading, playing the piano, and pursuing other interests. In August, Her Majesty had been scheduled to visit Karuizawa and Kusatsu to participate in the annual Kusatsu International Summer Music Academy and Festival as in the past, but on learning of the disaster in Hiroshima Prefecture, in which heavy rains caused many deaths and left many others missing, Her Majesty cancelled this trip. When Her condition allows, She plays tennis with His Majesty, albeit for a short time only. This year Their Majesties took three trips to the Hayama Imperial Villa and one trip to the Nasu Imperial Villa.

On October 20, Her birthday, Her Majesty will spend the time from 10:30 to 12:00 noon attending six separate events, receiving birthday greetings from members of the Imperial Family and relatives, the Prime Minister, the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President of the House of Councillors, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Cabinet Ministers, and the Imperial Household Agency staff. At noon, She will enjoy a celebratory lunch with all the members of the Imperial Family, and in the afternoon, She will receive birthday greetings from former members of staff, have tea with former household staff, and also have tea with old acquaintances including those from Her alma mater. In the early evening, Her Majesty will receive greetings from the young Prince and Princesses, and She will finish the day with a celebratory dinner with Her children and their spouses.


Birthday Celebration Schedule of Her Majesty The Empress

Monday, October 20, 2014
Time Greetings received by Birthday Celebrations Attended by Location
10:30 am Their Majesties The Emperor and Empress Felicitations and Celebratory Toast Grand Chamberlain and staff members of the Board of Chamberlains Imperial Residence
11:00 am His Majesty The Emperor Felicitations Grand Steward, Vice-Grand Steward representing staff members, Special Advisors Imperial Palace
11:10 am Her Majesty The Empress Felicitations Grand Steward and senior officials, Special Advisors, Ladies-in-waiting Imperial Palace
11:20 am Her Majesty The Empress Felicitations Staff members of the Imperial Household Agency and the Imperial Guard Headquarters Imperial Palace
11:40 am Her Majesty The Empress Felicitations Prime Minister, Ministers of State, Director-General of the Cabinet Legislation Bureau, Deputy-Chief Cabinet Secretary, Speaker and Vice-Speaker of the House of Representatives, President and Vice-President of the House of Councillors, Chief Justice and Justice of the Supreme Court, President of the Board of Audit, President of the National Personnel Authority, Public Prosecutor General, Chairman of the Fair Trade Commission, Chairman of the Nuclear Regulation Authority, and their spouses Imperial Palace
11:50 am Their Majesties The Emperor and Empress Felicitations Their Imperial Highnesses Imperial Palace
0:00 pm Their Majesties The Emperor and Empress Celebratory Lunch Their Imperial Highnesses, former members and relatives of the Imperial Family Imperial Palace
1:20 pm Her Majesty The Empress Felicitations Former staff members of the Imperial Household Agency and the Imperial Guard Headquarters Imperial Palace
1:40 pm Their Majesties The Emperor and Empress Celebratory Reception Former Special Advisors, senior officials of the Imperial Household Agency, etc. Imperial Palace
4:30 pm Their Majesties The Emperor and Empress Celebratory Reception Lecturers, friends, etc. Imperial Residence
6:30 pm Their Majesties The Emperor and Empress Felicitations Their Imperial Highnesses Princess Aiko, Princess Kako, Prince Hisahito Imperial Residence
7:00 pm Their Majesties The Emperor and Empress Celebratory Dinner Their Imperial Highnesses The Crown Prince and Princess, Prince and Princess Akishino, Mr. and Mrs. Kuroda Imperial Residence