Press Conference on the occasion of His Majesty's Birthday (2006)

His Majesty's Answers to Questions by the Press on the Occasion of His Majesty's Birthday(2006), and the Activities of the Emperor over the Past Year

Press Conference on the Occasion of His Majesty's Birthday (2006)
(Photo:Imperial Household Agency)

(Imperial Household Agency Press Club)

Question 1
Prince Hisahito, born to Their Imperial Highnesses Prince and Princess Akishino, is the first prince born into the Imperial Family in 41 years. How did Your Majesty feel when you heard of the pregnancy of Her Imperial Highness Princess Kiko? What were your thoughts as you watched over Princess Kiko during the ten months leading up to the birth of the prince? Please also tell us how you felt when you first saw Prince Hisahito and how he looked when you received him at the Imperial Residence, as well as your ideas regarding his education as a grandson.
Answer 1

I had heard in advance about signs of the pregnancy, and what I heard was that her condition was not entirely safe. I was thus truly happy when I heard from the Grand Chamberlain, when I was working at the Palace, that tests had indicated a healthy pregnancy. Princess Akishino later experienced morning sickness and placenta previa, a condition that can trigger heavy bleeding, but she overcame these difficulties and managed to safely deliver Prince Hisahito. I presume that Princess Akishino went through days that were filled not only with joy, but also with a great deal of anxiety and hardship. The prince was delivered by Caesarean section ahead of the expected delivery date. When I first saw the newborn, however, I had the impression that he was a very fine and healthy baby. I deeply appreciate the efforts made by many people who were involved in the delivery. Another thing that remains in my heart is the congratulations that we received from many people for Prince Hisahito's birth. We were met with congratulations from many people in Hokkaido, where we were staying at the time of the birth, as well as on the streets of many places we visited afterwards.

A recent image of Hisahito I have in my mind is of him gazing up at me while I am near him.

As for the question about my ideas regarding his education, I believe that for the time being it is important for him to be reared with loving affection from Prince and Princess Akishino, as well as from Mako and Kako, his two elder sisters. I feel that Mako, who has turned 15, has grown very robustly in the past year. I am sure that Mako and Kako will support their parents well as elder sisters of Hisahito.

Question 2
This past summer, the family of His Imperial Highness the Crown Prince visited the Kingdom of the Netherlands, combining the visit with an occasion for Princess Masako to recuperate. What does Your Majesty think about the idea of rest and recuperation abroad? Please also tell us your feelings about the family of His Imperial Highness the Crown Prince, touching on such aspects as Princess Masako's recovery after the visit and the growth of Princess Aiko, who has started her new life at kindergarten.
Answer 2

As for the latest rest and recuperation of the Crown Prince's family in the Netherlands, I think it was good that it took place as the doctors have given a positive evaluation and the Crown Prince and Princess themselves were very happy. I deeply appreciate the cordial hospitality extended to the family of the Crown Prince by Her Majesty Queen Beatrix, Crown Prince Willem-Alexander, and Crown Princess Maxima of the Netherlands.

As for Princess Aiko, I vividly recall her being very joyful and cheerful while she played a children's game called sugoroku featuring sumo with the Empress and Princess Akishino following dinner on the birthday of the Crown Princess. It is unfortunate that we have not had more opportunities to meet Aiko, because she has just started her kindergarten life and frequently catches cold. I am looking forward to seeing her more frequently from now on and enjoying relaxed conversation with her.

I pray for an early recovery of the health of the Crown Princess, and I am glad to hear from the Crown Prince, who is most close to her, that her health is headed in a good direction. I hope that she will spend her days making her health the first priority in her life.

Question 3
This year, close attention has been paid to the severe environment surrounding children, as reflected in acts such as bullying, suicides, and abuse. Also, this past summer, a memo of comments made by Emperor Showa as written by the late Mr. Tomohiko Tomita, a former Grand Steward of the Imperial Household Agency, was disclosed, which led to various debates on Yasukuni Shrine. Please tell us Your Majesty's thoughts on the environment surrounding children, as well as on the question of mourning the war dead.
Answer 3

This year has seen many tragic events involving children such as bullying, suicides and abuses. My heart aches indeed when I imagine the pain felt by parents who lost their children or by children who were bullied.

In order to prevent these occurrences as much as possible, it is important that we create relationships in which parents, children and teachers trust each other. I believe it is also important that, through such relationships, parents and teachers support children so that they will grow to be accustomed to thinking about things from other people's perspectives, as well as from their own. I am heartened that in recent years there are an increasing number of schools that are creating opportunities for students to have exchanges with the elderly or the handicapped, or to be involved in volunteer activities related to them, so that they can deepen their understanding of people in different situations. In these developments I feel signs of a bright future for our education.

I believe that it is extremely important to mourn the war dead. More than 3.1 million Japanese died during the Second World War, and on August 15 of each year I attend the Memorial Ceremony for the War Dead thinking back on those who died on the battlefields or perished amid the destruction of the war. Either engaged in combat on the battlefields or not, they all thought of their nation and its people and did all they could either in the battle or in their work before they perished. I think that we should never forget that the Japan of today was built on the sacrifices they made.

The Empress and I have paid visits, with our thoughts focused on the mourning of the war dead, to Okinawa, where more than 186,000 people including both soldiers and civilians died, to Iwojima, where more than 21,000 soldiers died, and last year on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the end of the war, to the island of Saipan, where approximately 55,000 people including soldiers and civilians perished. I feel that one could not possibly express in words the feelings that must have been felt by those who fought on these battlefields enduring enemy attacks, in the isolated situation beyond the reach of any assistance and without food and water while around them the numbers of dead and wounded were mounting. Especially on Iwojima island, on top of everything else, they had to endure geothermal heat. Furthermore, in the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, where atomic bombs were dropped, as a result of intensely hot wind and radioactivity, approximately 140,000 people in Hiroshima and approximately 70,000 in Nagasaki died in that year alone. Even those who survived continued to suffer from after-effects or had to spend worrisome days, not knowing when they would be overtaken by illness caused by radioactivity.

Now that the number of those who were born after the war increases as years pass by, the practice of mourning the war dead will help them to understand what kind of the world and the society those in the previous generation lived in, and will thus give them one of the opportunities to reflect on the history of Japan and the world. I sincerely hope that the facts about the war and the war dead will continue to be correctly conveyed to those of the generations that do not have direct knowledge of the war so that the kind of the ravages of war that we experienced in the past will never be repeated.

Related Question
Question 1
I would like to ask Your Majesty a question related to the third question regarding the mourning of the war dead. Do you have any recollections of speaking with Emperor Showa regarding his feelings about the mourning of the war dead or the way to mourn them, or was there anything that Emperor Showa wanted to convey to Your Majesty in this regard?
Answer 1

I had never heard from Emperor Showa regarding the mourning of the war dead.

provisional translation

The Activities of His Majesty the Emperor Over the Past Year

Over this past year, His Majesty carried out at the Imperial Palace his official state duties approximately twice a week, signing and setting his official seal to as many as 1052 documents received from the Cabinet. In addition, His Majesty attended the annual New Year's Lectures and the New Year's Poetry Reading Ceremony and performed many ceremonies including the Imperial Investiture (the Prime Minister and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court), the accreditation of senior Japanese officials (96 officials) and the presentation of credentials of foreign ambassadors (30 ambassadors). His Majesty also received in audience people from various fields including recipients of decorations and medals of honour, those who received awards for their dedicated work in the medical field, prison correctional officers, representatives of outstanding local public event halls, and senior officers of the Joint Staff of the Self Defense Forces (SDF). His Majesty hosted luncheons for cabinet members, governors, senior justices of the courts and senior public prosecutors, and teas for recipients of the Order of Culture, Persons of Cultural Merit, prize-winners of the 20th Olympic Winter Games and the Torino Paralympic Winter Games. His Majesty also received in audience members of Japan Disaster Relief (JDR) teams and International Peace Cooperation Corps, Self-defense Forces (SDF) personnel and Foreign Ministry liaison officials in Samawah dispatched on the basis of the Anti-Terrorism Special Measures Law and the Special Measures Law for Humanitarian and Reconstruction Assistance in Iraq, members of the Japanese Youth Missions who went abroad and awardees of the National Personnel Authority President's Award. His Majesty received briefings from the Governor of the Bank of Japan and vice-ministers of government ministries and agencies and others.

As for guests from overseas, His Majesty, together with Her Majesty, welcomed in November His Excellency Dr. H. Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, President of the Republic of Indonesia and Mrs. Kristiani as State Guests, in whose honor a Welcoming Ceremony and a State Banquet were held. The Welcoming Ceremony took place at the Imperial Palace for the first time because renovation work was underway at the State Guest House. Their Majesties also hosted tea for the Heads of State and other representatives of 15 countries and their spouses who attended the Fourth Japan-Pacific Islands Forum Summit Meeting, and hosted court luncheons for the President of the Republic of Malawi, His Royal Highness the Crown Prince of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the President of the Republic of Cameroon and his Spouse, and the President and First Lady of the Republic of El Salvador, who was in Japan on an official working visit. Their Majesties also met with the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan and his wife, and other Heads of State, Heads of three branches of the Government, and the Secretary General of the United Nations. As for foreign ambassadors and their spouses, Their Majesties invited them to teas soon after their arrival, to luncheons after they have stayed in Japan for three years, and to farewell audiences when they were leaving their posts.

At the Imperial Residence, Their Majesties received many people such as members of the Japan Academy and the Japan Art Academy, Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers and Japan Overseas Development Youth Volunteers who had returned to Japan, Senior Volunteers and Senior Volunteers for Overseas Japanese Communities, as well as the recipients of Japan Foundation Awards and Japan Foundation Special Prizes. Their Majesties also hosted dinners for Prime Ministers and Chief Justices of the Supreme Court, both outgoing and incoming, and their spouses on the occasion of their changes. In May, Their Majesties also met with the Captain and other members of the Japan Soccer Association prior to the team's participation in the 2006 FIFA World Cup Germany. Their Majesties received members of royal families, including His Majesty King Abdullah II bin Al-Hussein of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and Her Majesty Queen Rania Al-Abdullah, and Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn of the Kingdom of Thailand. Their Majesties also received briefings from the Director-General of the Foreign Policy Bureau of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and heard explanations prior to their attendance at various events.

Within Tokyo, His Majesty attended and made remarks at ceremonies such as the opening of the Diet, the Memorial Ceremony for the War Dead, the award ceremonies for the Japan Prize and the International Prize for Biology, and the Commemorative Ceremony of the 50th Anniversary of Japan's Admission to the United Nations. His Majesty also attended the award ceremonies for the Japan Art Academy Award and the Japan Academy Prize, visited places including the Botanical Gardens at the University of Tokyo Graduate School of Science (Koishikawa Botanical Garden), Emperor Showa Memorial Museum and Showa Memorial Park, the 91st Restored Exhibition of the Japan Art Institute and the 91st Exhibition of the Nika Art Association, and made His annual visit to a factory recommended by the government.

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 the theme of each of these dates and gave their encouragement to those living or working at such institutions.

In March this year, Their Majesties visited Miyakejima island by helicopter as the islanders marked their first anniversary of returning home after an evacuation of the entire population caused by a volcanic eruption. On the island, Their Majesties visited Ako fishery port and a support center for those seniors who live in their own homes. They also visited the local village office, where they expressed their appreciation to people involved in reconstruction activities for their hard work and met with residents.

During this past year, Their Majesties visited a total of 14 cities, 10 towns, and 1 village in 9 prefectures in Japan. During these visits, Their Majesties attended celebrations of the 57th National Arbor Day Festival (Gifu Prefecture) and the 61st National Sports Festival (Hyogo Prefecture), where the previous summer and autumn festivals were consolidated for the first time. They also attended the 26th National Convention for the Development of an Abundantly Productive Sea (Saga Prefecture), and the Congress Ceremony of the 16th International Microscopy Congress held in Sapporo, on the occasion of which His Majesty made remarks and attended the reception held for the attending scientists. During their visits, Their Majesties also visited cultural and welfare facilities, and observed local situations. In Hokkaido, they visited a forestation project in the Cape Erimo area which they have wished to visit for many years. In October, Their Majesties visited Independent Administrative Institution RIKEN (a scientific research institute) at Wako city, Saitama prefecture.

This past June, His Majesty, together with Her Majesty, paid official visits to the Republic of Singapore and the Kingdom of Thailand, and visited Malaysia in between. As this year marked the 40th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Japan and Singapore, Their Majesties participated in various official events as State Guests and did their best to meet ordinary citizens of Singapore. In Thailand, Their Majesties attended the 60th Anniversary Celebration of the Accession to the Throne of His Majesty the King of Thailand, as well as various related events, while deepening their friendships both with the Thai royal family and the royal family members of other countries represented there. Local newspapers reported that the people of Thailand were deeply impressed by the sincere personality they saw in Their Majesties. In Malaysia, Their Majesties visited Perak State on almost exactly the identical schedule planned for a visit 15 years ago that was cancelled due to bad weather exacerbated by mountain forest fires. On this visit Their Majesties received a welcome from His Royal Highness Sultan Azlan Shah, who was the Yang di-Pertuan Agong IX of Malaysia at the time of their earlier planned visit, as well as from local people. In Kuala Lumpur, Their Majesties had dinner with His Majesty the Yang di-Pertuan Agong XII of Malaysia Tuanku Syed Sirajuddin and Her Majesty the Raja Permaisuri Agong, who visited Japan as State Guests in March last year.

As in every year in the past, His Majesty himself 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 this crop of rice for use in the Niinamesai ritual, together with millet which he cultivated separately, and also offered rice plant with roots to the Ise Shrine on the occasion of Kannamesai ritual.

His Majesty attended 35 ritual ceremonies at the Palace Sanctuary, including the Ceremony of the 1,200th Anniversary of the Demise of Emperor Kanmu. Also, as it was the 80th Anniversary of the Demise of Emperor Taisho this year, Their Majesties paid their respects at Tama-no-misasagi and Tama-no-higashi-no-misasagi (the graves of Emperor Taisho and Empress Teimei).

This year His Majesty, with Her Majesty, met on a total of 58 occasions with the Palace voluntary workforce, voluntary helpers at the Palace Sanctuary, and offerers of first-crop rice for Niinamesai ritual.

On 6 September, while Their Majesties were visiting Hokkaido, a prince was born to Prince and Princess Akishino. Their Majesties were very glad at the birth of an Imperial grandson. They visited Princess Akishino and saw the newborn prince in the hospital on the day after they returned from Hokkaido. On 14 November, the prince, Prince Hisahito, paid his first visit to the Imperial Residence.

On 11 November, Princess Aiko participated in the Chakko-no-Gi (a traditional Imperial ceremony to celebrate a baby becoming a child). On that occasion, Their Majesties received greetings from the Princess and attended the dinner celebrating this occasion at the Crown Prince's Residence.

When he could find time between his busy official duties, His Majesty continued his research on gobiid fishes. This year, for the first time in 21 years, His Majesty participated in the annual meeting of the GORI (a Japanese local name of gobiid fish) Study Group held in Yokosuka City in May. He also participated for the first time in six years in the annual meeting of the Ichthyological Society of Japan, held in Shizuoka City in October.

In April, His Majesty received a report from scientists associated with the National Science Museum in Tokyo on the results of additional research on the flora and fauna in the Imperial Palace Grounds. This report originated from His Majesty's belief that accurate data on the flora and fauna in the Imperial Palace Grounds in the year 2000 should be recorded and followed up with researches on subsequent changes. To this end, the National Science Museum began detailed research in 1996, involving more than 100 researchers, and the results of that phase of the research were released in December 2000. The Museum then conducted a follow-up research on fauna, and the record of that research for the span of five years was compiled as the latest report in March 2006. It was recently announced that, in recognition of Their Majesties' wishes to share the outcome of the surveys with the people on the occasion of the establishment of the "Greenery Month," which will begin next year, nature observation tours will be held in the Fukiage Garden of the Imperial Palace.

Since His Majesty underwent an operation for prostate cancer, he has continuously been undergoing hormonal therapy. 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 Palace on foot. On free weekends and holidays, His Majesty makes efforts to take exercises, including playing tennis.

On 23 December, His Majesty will celebrate his 73rd birthday.

provisional translation