I am grieved that major snowstorms have recently hit the areas around Hokuriku region and caused widespread damage and even fatalities. I would like to express my heartfelt condolences to the bereaved families. I hope that the weather will soon take a turn for the better so that life can return to normal for the people and that the injured will recover steadily.
During the War a tremendous number of Japanese people lost their lives. Out of the 3.1 million war dead, a total of 2.4 million people died on foreign land. In recognizing the passage of 60 years since the end of the War, the Empress and I wished to pay tribute to the war dead on foreign land where so many people lost their lives, and with the cooperation of numerous people, we visited Saipan in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, a self-governing United States territory. On the island is the Monument of the War Dead in the Mid-Pacific erected by the Government of Japan for those who lost their lives in the War in this region.
Saipan, a formerly German territory, was made a trust territory of Japan by the League of Nations after the First World War. In effect, many Japanese immigrated to this island and engaged in the sugar industry, agriculture and fisheries.
When the US military landed in Saipan on 15 June 1944, the Japanese forces had already lost naval and air supremacies and the many Japanese nationals on the island were unable to evacuate the area. Due to combat being conducted under such circumstances, approximately 43,000 personnel from the army and the navy and 12,000 Japanese residents who remained in the area lost their lives by 7 July, the day the Japanese forces were defeated and died with honour. It is impossible to imagine the level of agony felt by the military personnel and those others residing on the island as well as the sorrow of the people who lost their family members there. Close to 3,500 US military personnel lost their lives in this combat, in addition to the more than 900 Saipanese who fell victim as well. There were also those originally from the Korean Peninsula who lost their lives in this combat. On the occasion of our visit this time, the Empress and I visited the respective monuments for those war dead, visited both the Suicide and Banzai Cliffs where many people leapt to their deaths, and mourned and paid tribute to the people who lost their lives in the War and reflected on the sorrow felt by the bereaved family members.
The trip left me heavy-hearted as I thought of the severe combat 61 years ago. However, I was delighted to learn that among the aged people in Saipan there were those who still to this day remember and cherish the fact that the Japanese immigrants had once made positive contributions for the Saipanese. I believe the efforts of the immigrants at the time contributed to our being warmly welcomed by the people of Saipan this time.
I would like to express my deep appreciation to those on the Japanese side who were involved in realizing our visit to Saipan this time, as well as their counterparts on the side of the US and in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.
For Japan, from the beginning to the 20th year of the Showa Era when the War ended (1927-45), there were rarely peaceful times. I believe it is very important for the people of Japan to strive to accurately understand this past history as well as the times that followed and this is also important when the Japanese people interact with the people of the world.
Attention has been drawn to various past facts and these have been brought before the public eye upon this 60th anniversary of the end of the War. I hope that knowledge about past facts will continue to be passed down in a proper manner through the efforts of many people and will be used for future benefit.
I am happy indeed that so many people have extended their heartfelt congratulations to the newly-weds on their marriage.
It is a great pleasure that they fully talked between themselves about their marriage for nearly two years and were able to jointly decide on it. I would like to express my deep appreciation to the many people who made great efforts in a variety of areas up to the day that they were married.
As a member of the Imperial Family, Sayako endeavored to do her best in regard to the official duties in and outside Japan and has fulfilled her duty. At home, Sayako has been very good to both me and the Empress.
I still remember how Sayako, who had come of age the year I acceded to the throne, supported us together with the Crown Prince and Prince Akishino, a little more than four months after his marriage, during the Ceremony of my Accession to the Throne.
Since Sayako's wedding, various tasks have kept my days busy, and for the time being, it does not feel as though there has been that much change. I am sure that it is the Empress who misses her most, but without expressing it, she rather shows concern for me more than ever before. The Empress and I have been saying to each other that we are no longer joined by the one who laughed the loudest when the three of us laughed at something funny. Sayako is a sweet, gentle girl, and at times she can also be a very merry person.
I wish the new path that the couple has taken will bring them much happiness.
As to the role played by the female members of the Imperial Family until now, they, in my view, must have played major roles, both in tangible and intangible ways. However, I would like to refrain from commenting on the question regarding the tradition and future of the Imperial Family in relation to the Imperial House Law. In my view on the Imperial Family, the desirable form of the Imperial Family is where the Emperor and the members of the Imperial Family shall endeavor to share hardships and joys together with the people, and carry out their duties while hoping for the happiness of the people. I also believe that this is the tradition of the Imperial Family.
I feel that the presence of female members of the Imperial Family brings about some very good elements such as giving kindness and warmth to the atmosphere and calling on the benevolence and courage of the people, both on public and private occasions, in addition to fulfilling their practical duties. From this point of view too, I am pleased that the Crown Princess's health is gradually improving, and I am looking forward to her getting even better.
In this 60th year since the end of World War II, His Majesty visited Saipan together with Her Majesty the Empress on 26 and 27 June, where Their Majesties offered flowers at the Monument of the War Dead in the Mid-Pacific, mourned and paid tribute to all those who lost their lives in that War and prayed for world peace. Prior to the visit, Their Majesties received in audience representatives of the Japan War-Bereaved Families Association and other related groups, and also received briefings from people including personnel from the Military History Department of the National Institute for Defense Studies and the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare.
In July, Their Majesties attended the Meeting of Bereaved Families of Seafarers Who Died on Duty held to commemorate the passing of 60 years since the end of the War, where Their Majesties listened to the experience of hardships and difficulties the bereaved families had experienced. Then in October, Their Majesties visited the Monument for the Seafarers Who Died on Duty in Kannonzaki in Yokosuka City and offered flowers.
In September, Their Majesties visited Chifuri District in Nasumachi of Tochigi Prefecture, which was settled and developed after the end of the War by those who came back from Manchuria, and listened to stories recounted by first-generation settlers and others. Their Majesties also visited the similarly developed area in the Nobeyama District, Minamimakimura Village of Nagano Prefecture.
In December, Their Majesties attended the Gathering for a New Beginning of the Ladies Circle of the Japan War-Bereaved Families Association.
Over this past year, as usual, His Majesty carried out his official State duties approximately twice every week, and signed and set his official seal to as many as 977 documents received from the Cabinet.
His Majesty performed many ceremonies at the Imperial Palace, including the Imperial Investiture (1 person), the accreditation of Japanese officials (114 persons), the receiving of credentials of foreign ambassadors (34 persons), and awards and decoration ceremonies. Also at the Imperial Palace, His Majesty received in audience people from various fields, and hosted many luncheons and teas. In addition, His Majesty received briefings from people including the Governor of the Bank of Japan, the Commissioner General of the National Police Agency, and the vice-ministers of government ministries and agencies.
At the Imperial Residence, as every year, Their Majesties received in audience many people such as members of the Japan Academy, the Japan Art Academy, Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers returned to Japan and Japan Overseas Development Youth Volunteers, Senior Volunteers and Senior Volunteers for Overseas Japanese Communities, and the recipients of Japan Foundation awards and Japan Foundation special prizes, and also listened to explanations on various events including the briefings from the Director-General of the Foreign Policy Bureau of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Including visits by foreign dignitaries, these events at Imperial Residence come to a total of over 100. In June, Their Majesties listened to the report by the mayor of Miyake Village on the situation of the island after the return of islanders there.
In the Tokyo, His Majesty attended ceremonies such as the opening of the Diet, and together with Her Majesty, The Memorial Ceremony for the War Dead, the award ceremonies for the Japan Prize, the International Prize for Biology, the Japan Art Academy Award, and the Japan Academy Prize, as well as the Commemoration for the Semi-centennial Anniversary of the Japan Dental Technologist Law and Foundation of JDTA (Japan Dental Technologists Association), a ceremony to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the founding of the Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers and a ceremony to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Shuyodan Foundation, at seven of which His Majesty delivered addresses. His Majesty made 45 visits in Tokyo.
As is the case every year, around the time of Children's Day, Respect for the Aged Day and Week for Disabled Persons, Their Majesties visited institutions related to each of these dates and gave encouragement to persons living or working at such institutions.
Their Majesties made visits to twelve prefectures, and attended events including the memorial gathering in commemoration of the 10th Anniversary of the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake and the opening ceremony of the United Nations World Conference on Disaster Reduction (both held in Hyogo Prefecture), the 56th National Arbor Day Festival (Ibaraki Prefecture), the 60th National Sports Festival (autumn tournament: Okayama Prefecture), the 25th National Convention for the Development of an Abundantly Productive Sea (Kanagawa Prefecture), where His Majesty delivered addresses. Their Majesties also observed cultural and industrial conditions in these regions, and visited welfare facilities including the National Sanatorium Nagashima Aiseien and the National Oku-Komyoen Sanatorium (both in Okayama Prefecture). During this past year, Their Majesties visited a total of 20 cities, six towns, and one village in these regions. As part of their customary practice to attend international academic conferences, this year, Their Majesties attended the opening ceremony of the 18th World Congress on Psychosomatic Medicine held in Kobe City, where His Majesty delivered an address.
Their Majesties attended the opening ceremony of the 2005 World Exposition, Aichi, Japan (EXPO 2005) held in Aichi Prefecture, where His Majesty delivered an address, and they visited various pavilions on two occasions. After the closing of the World Exposition, Their Majesties invited individuals involved in it, to the Imperial Palace and expressed appreciation for their hard work.
As for State Guests from overseas, in March Their Majesties welcomed His Majesty the Yang di-Pertuan Agong Tuanku Syed Sirajuddin and Her Majesty the Raja Permaisuri Agong Tengku Fauziah of Malaysia, and in November His Majesty the King Mohammed VI of the Kingdom of Morocco, in whose honor Welcoming Ceremonies and State Banquets were held. Their Majesties also received on official visits to Japan, the Presidents and First Ladies of the Republic of Zambia, the French Republic, the Federative Republic of Brazil, and the Republic of Paraguay, as well as His Highness Sheikh Hamad, the Amir and Her Highness Sheikha Mozah, the Consort of the Amir of the State of Qatar, for whom they hosted court luncheons. In addition, Their Majesties also received guests at the Imperial Palace, including the President of the Russian Federation and other Heads of State, Prime Ministers, and Heads of Parliament, among others.
Many foreign dignitaries visited Japan in connection with the World Exposition and Their Majesties received many at The Imperial Palace and at The Imperial Residence, beginning with the April visit by H.R.H.Crown Princess Victoria of the Kingdom of Sweden. Moreover, in August His Majesty hosted a tea at the Imperial Palace for the Heads of State and others from seven Central American countries who were in Japan to attend the National Day festivities at the World Exposition.
Their Majesties invited newly appointed foreign ambassadors and their spouses to teas, foreign ambassadors and their spouses who have resided in Japan for some time to luncheons, and received in audience foreign ambassadors and their spouses who were leaving their posts.
His Majesty, together with Her Majesty, visited the Kingdom of Norway in May, on which occasion they visited Ireland as well. This year marks the 100th anniversary since the establishment of diplomatic relations between Japan and Norway, and this was the third visit to Norway by His Majesty following his visits in 1953 and 1985. On these visits, His Majesty has met all three Kings of Norway, including King Haakon VII, the first monarch, and currently reigning King Harald V. As for Ireland, this was the first visit in 20 years since their last visit in 1985 as Crown Prince and Crown Princess. In both Norway and Ireland, Their Majesties were welcomed by members of the Norwegian Royal Family, the President of Ireland and their Prime Ministers as well as other government officials, and the people of the respective countries, and attended 40 events during their stay, such as welcoming ceremonies, luncheons, and banquets, as well as visits to welfare and cultural facilities.
As in every year in the past, His Majesty hand-sowed seed-rice, transplanted it, and reaped the rice crop at the paddy field of the Biological Laboratory of the Imperial Household. His Majesty offered some of these crops of rice for use in the Niinamesai and also offered rice with the roots still attached to the Ise Shrine on the occasion of Kannamesai.
On 15 November, Her Imperial Highness Princess Sayako married Mr. Yoshiki Kuroda. Prior to their marriage, His Majesty had given his assent to the marriage last December, which was then followed by a series of ceremonies at the Imperial Palace, including the Nosai no Gi, the engagement ceremony on 19 March this year, and the Kokki no Gi, the announcement of the date of the wedding ceremony on 5 October, and the Choken no Gi, the ceremony where Her Highness expresses gratitude to Their Majesties on 12 November. Their Majesties invited such people as those involved in the official duties Princess Sayako had performed and former staff members of the Palace for a tea to celebrate the occasion. Their Majesties attended the wedding ceremony and the reception banquet. On the day of the wedding, Their Majesties received congratulations from the heads of the three branches of the government including the Prime Minister, and others at the Imperial Palace, and also accepted the signing of guest books by the public.
Concerning the ritual ceremonies of the Imperial Palace, His Majesty has attended 35 ritual ceremonies at the Imperial Palace, including the Ceremony of the 700th Anniversary of the Demise of Emperor Kameyama. Also, since this is the year commemorating the 1600th anniversary of the demise of Emperor Richu, in August Their Majesties paid their respects at the mausoleum of Emperor Richu (Osaka Prefecture).
This year Their Majesties also received, on a total of 55 occasions, the Palace voluntary workforce, voluntary helpers at the Kashiko Dokoro (Palace Sanctuary) and offerers of first-fruit rice.
When he can find time including weekends and late evenings between his busy official duties, His Majesty continues his research on gobiid fishes.
In January 2003 His Majesty underwent an operation for prostate cancer. From July 2004 His Majesty has been undergoing hormonal therapy once every four weeks. In order to maintain his health, His Majesty takes early morning strolls, and whenever possible tries to cover the distance between the Imperial Residence and the Imperial Palace on foot. On free weekends and holidays, His Majesty makes efforts to take exercise, including playing tennis.
On 23 December, His Majesty will celebrate his 72nd birthday.