Press Conference on the occasion of His Majesty's Birthday (2007)

Questions by the Press to be answered by His Majesty on the Occasion of His Majesty's Birthday(2007), and the Activities of the Emperor over the Past Year

Press Conference on the Occasion of His Majesty's Birthday (2007)
(Photo : Imperial Household Agency)

(Imperial Household Agency Press Club)

Question 1
This past year, we have seen a number of incidents that have undermined people's sense of security in their daily lives, such as the false labeling of food products leading to concerns for food safety, the pension issue and widening social disparity. Please tell us your views on these social issues.
Answer 1

It is regrettable that a number of incidents have come to light in the past few years, undermining the people's sense of security regarding food and housing, which are the basic essentials of daily life.

As for the pension issue, I truly hope that a resolution to this problem will be found so that those who have worked hard, dedicating themselves to Japan's post-war reconstruction and subsequent development, may live free of worry in their old age.

On the issue of social disparity, of course it is desirable to minimize the gap between rich and poor, but in a world of free competition, it is difficult to avoid some disparity. Under such circumstances, it is important to build an environment in which those in weaker positions due to health and other factors are not left behind and are able to participate actively in society. I also believe that it is necessary to educate people so that they do not harbor a sense of discrimination towards others.

Whenever I look back and think of those whose health has been adversely affected by pollution, for example, I realize that in those days there was not enough awareness among the people of the risks, which aggravated the suffering of the victims. I feel deep regret thinking that, had people been better informed about the situation at an earlier date, many victims could have been spared suffering.

People have become more interested in the safety of their daily lives in recent years and I think this has contributed to bringing out into the open the dangers which threaten to undermine public safety, including the failure of buildings to meet earthquake-resistant requirements. I hope that those involved will devote their best efforts to protect people's safety, and my wish is for everyone to have a higher awareness of this issue so that people can mutually cooperate and lead their lives feeling safe and secure.

Question 2
We would like to ask you about your family. In her fourth year of recuperation, Her Imperial Highness the Crown Princess, has expanded the scope of her activities, as she resumed official duties involving overnight stays on regional visits. Your four grandchildren appear to be growing soundly and we understand that your daughter, Mrs. Sayako Kuroda, is leading a happy married life. How does Your Majesty continue to watch over the lives of your children and grandchildren? We would appreciate any specific episodes you could share with us.
Answer 2

I care deeply about the happiness of each member of the family, and I would like to continue to watch over them.

At the press conference this year, prior to our visit to Europe, I referred to the visits abroad made during my years as Crown Prince and commented, "in order to be accepted by overseas countries as a representative of the Emperor, I tried to be very strict with myself, and for this reason, we have never even once made an overseas visit in a private capacity. Currently, the Crown Prince and Crown Princess do not make overseas visits as my representative. Therefore, I believe that they can be involved in international exchange, including overseas visits, in their status as Crown Prince and Crown Princess in a way that they themselves, the Government, and the people want them to". Some interpreted my response at that time as a criticism of the Crown Prince and his family for recuperating in the Netherlands. That is not at all what I intended.

We began to serve as representatives of Emperor Showa when we were in our twenties to reciprocate visits by State Guests to Japan. Except for the visits made by Emperor Showa and Empress Kojun to Europe and the United States, our visits abroad in this status continued through the Showa Era. As I was making reciprocal visits representing the Emperor to the countries that expected visits from the Emperor himself, it was necessary for me to meet fully the demand of what was expected of me in such a situation. In the Heisei Era, however, it is decided to cease the practice of reciprocal visits on behalf of the Emperor. Therefore, the Crown Prince and Crown Princess are in a position to participate freely in international exchanges in various ways including overseas visits. That is what I tried to convey at the press conference, and in no way any criticism of the Crown Prince's family recuperating in the Netherlands was intended. I would also like to add that at the press conference on my birthday last year, I was asked a question regarding their recuperation in the Netherlands, and I responded that I think it was good that it took place as the doctors had given a positive evaluation and the Crown Prince and Crown Princess themselves were very happy.

As I have come across cases like this in which my comments are utterly misinterpreted contrary to my intentions, I am worried about the possibility that my response to this matter can be again misinterpreted. Therefore, I would like to refrain from further elaborating my answer to this question.

Question 3
We hear that Your Majesty The Emperor, as a biologist, often discusses global warming with visiting foreign dignitaries. As such, how does Your Majesty view the various issues concerning nature and the environment? In line with Your Majesty's wish to share nature with the people, nature observation tours were held for the first time in the Fukiage Garden of the Imperial Palace this year, and it has been decided to transfer part of the Nasu Imperial Villa to the jurisdiction of the Ministry of the Environment. Meanwhile, in a speech at a ceremony held in November, Your Majesty referred to the excessive propagation of Bluegills. Please tell us your thoughts about the sharing of natural assets as well as the thoughts that led you to make the reference to Bluegills at the ceremony.
Answer 3

With regard to global warming, when I met with the President of the Federated States of Micronesia and the Prime Minister of Tuvalu, who had attended the recent Asia-Pacific Water Summit, they both brought up the issue of rising sea levels, and the President of the Republic of Tajikistan spoke about the retreating glaciers on the Pamir Plateau. Tokyo had a warm winter this year, with the first recorded snowfall of the year on 16th March, which is said to be the latest first snowfall since the Meteorological Agency started compiling records in 1877. In this way problems caused by global warming are emerging around the world, and there are concerns that they could have various impacts on the lives of people in the future. However, I am truly encouraged to see that there is now heightened interest in the environment throughout the world, and that conditions are being created to encourage cooperation across national borders and across various fields to enable people to live in a good environment. It is my ardent hope that the countries of the world cooperate with each other and do everything they can to move the global environment in a better direction.

Nature observation tours of the Fukiage Garden were organized based on the results of a flora and fauna survey carried out by the National Science Museum that recorded the status of flora and fauna in the grounds of the Imperial Palace in 2000, focusing on the Fukiage Garden. This survey was carried out from 1996 to 2000 for fauna, from 1997 to 2000 for flora, and again until 2006 for some of the fauna. The researchers who conducted the survey gave talks on their findings to participants in the observation tours, which I am sure, must have made the tours all the more meaningful for the participants.

The survey of the land adjacent to the Nasu Imperial Villa was carried out by the Tochigi Prefectural Museum from 1997 to 2001, and a report, "Flora and Fauna of the Nasu Imperial Villa," was published the following year. The transfer of jurisdiction to the Ministry of the Environment was implemented based on the results of this survey. It would make me very happy if the area transferred to the Ministry of the Environment as part of a National Park can play a significant role in increasing understanding and awareness of nature among the people who visit the Park. This area has a beech wood forest which remains uncut for charcoal production. I recall going to see the forest with the researchers who had conducted the survey.

With regard to the Bluegills, it was exactly 30 years ago in 1977 that a conversation I had with freshwater fish experts Dr. Morizumi Nakamura of the National Science Museum and Mr. Eizo Kimura of the Freshwater Fish Protection Association was reported in Freshwater Fish, a publication of the Freshwater Fish Protection Association, and Bluegill was mentioned in that article. This is how Bluegills got into Lake Biwa. The Shiga Prefectural Fisheries Experimental Station showed its interest in using Bluegills as the host for Biwa Pearly Mussels which were farmed for freshwater pearl cultivation as the host for the mussel larvae. When the Bluegills were being transported from the Freshwater Fisheries Research Laboratory of the Fisheries Agency to the Shiga Prefectural Fisheries Experimental Station, unfortunately some of them escaped by chance into Lake Biwa. When I heard that Bluegills would be transferred to the Experimental Station, I, thinking that they could be useful for the cultivators of freshwater pearls, said no more than to be careful that the Bluegills do not get into Lake Biwa, and I now regret it.

Thirty years ago the fish anglers caught were usually eaten. So it was thought that since many people caught Black Basses or Bluegills, this would prevent over-breeding of these fish and not bring about change in the local freshwater eco-system. Nowadays, however, the practice of catch-and-release has become popular among anglers, and people no longer eat their catch, but simply release the fish back into the water. As a result, we are now seeing the overpopulation of Black Basses and Bluegills. I had not anticipated the practice of catch-and-release to become so widespread. I think that both Black Bass and Bluegill are tasty fish. So, I hope that by using them as food, we can prevent over-breeding and help create a safe environment for those fish species that have been living in Japan for thousands of years. It is also hoped that anglers will engage in volunteer activities towards this end.

At the ceremony of the National Convention for the Development of an Abundantly Productive Sea, I spoke about the Japanese Rosy Bitterling that has become extinct in the Lake Biwa system. I believe that it is facing the greatest threat of extinction among the freshwater species in Japan. One reason is that in comparison to the larger Continental Rosy Bitterling introduced from China, the Japanese Rosy Bitterling is at a disadvantage in terms of competition for survival, and also these two subspecies are able to crossbreed. Therefore, when even one Continental Rosy Bitterling enters waters inhabited by the Japanese Rosy Bitterlings, the pure blood of the Japanese Rosy Bitterling can no longer be maintained. The only places we can find pure Japanese Rosy Bitterlings today are closed water systems free of the Continental Rosy Bitterlings. This is a most serious situation. The Continental Rosy Bitterling is a beautiful fish, so I suppose it was first kept in aquariums and then released into ponds and rivers, resulting in its breeding all over Japan. Given the serious situation confronting the Japanese Rosy Bitterlings, I felt that it was necessary to breed them at sites that were free from any possible release of Continental Rosy Bitterlings. So since 1983 a number of Japanese Rosy Bitterlings from Yao City, Osaka Prefecture, have been bred in a pond in the Akasaka Imperial Garden, while others from Tatara River, Fukuoka Prefecture, have been bred, at my request, in a pond on the premises of Prince Hitachi's residence. The Japanese Rosy Bitterling Study Group examines these fish in ponds from time to time for their research.

As Japan was separated from the continent a long time ago and has old lakes like Lake Biwa and islands that have been isolated for many years from the main islands such as Honshu, there is a great variety of indigenous species in Japan. It is my hope that the Japanese people will work together to protect these creatures so that they can continue to live in a safe environment in the future.

Related Question
Over the course of the last two years, a number of diaries by those close to Emperor Showa have been published in succession. Following the release of the Diaries of Grand Steward Tomohiko Tomita last year, the Diaries of Chamberlain Ryogo Urabe were released this year. Both of these diaries mentioned "Haicho-roku," a record dictated by Emperor Showa to Chamberlain Irie. The Diary of Chamberlain Irie also makes repeated mention of this record, so the record is generally considered to exist. Has Your Majesty ever seen it? It is also said that you have a copy of this record yourself. Could you tell us about it?

I have never seen it.


Does that mean you currently do not have it in your possession?


No, I think not. At least not anywhere that I am aware of.

provisional translation

The Activities of His Majesty the Emperor Over the Past Year

Over this past year, His Majesty The Emperor carried out his official state duties approximately twice a week, signing and setting his official seal to as many as 1051 documents received from the Cabinet.

At the Imperial Palace, His Majesty attended the annual ceremonies of the New Year's Lectures and the New Year's Poetry Reading Ceremony, and performed other ceremonies including the Imperial Investiture (the Prime Minister), accreditation of senior Japanese officials (126 officials) and presentation of Letters of Credentials by foreign ambassadors (29 ambassadors). His Majesty 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, and senior officers of the Joint Staff of the Self-Defense Forces (SDF). His Majesty hosted luncheons for those including Cabinet members, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, the Public Prosecutor General, the Head of Board of Audit and governors, and teas for recipients of the Order of Culture, Persons of Cultural Merit, and newly recognized holders of Important Intangible Cultural Properties. His Majesty also received in audience persons such as 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 others.

As for State Guests from overseas, Their Majesties welcomed His Majesty King Carl XVI Gustaf and Her Majesty Queen Silvia of the Kingdom of Sweden in March and His Excellency Mr. Nguyen Minh Triet, President of the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam, and Mrs. Chi in November. Welcoming Ceremonies and State Banquets were held at the Imperial Palace in their honour. Luncheons were held at the Imperial Palace for the President of the Republic of Chile and Presidents and spouses of the Republic of Mozambique, the Czech Republic, Mongolia, the Republic of Namibia and the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, on the occasion of their official working visits to Japan. His Majesty also received the President of the Republic of Kiribati and his spouse, and other Heads of State, Heads of Government, Leaders of Parliament, and Chief Justice. As for ambassadors from overseas and their spouses, Their Majesties hosted teas for the newly appointed ambassadors to Japan and their spouses, luncheons for those foreign ambassadors and their spouses who have been in Japan for more than three years, and received in audience foreign ambassadors and their spouses leaving Japan.

At the Imperial Residence, Their Majesties held annual teas and receptions for members of the Japan Academy and the Japan Art Academy, Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers who had returned to Japan, Japan Overseas Development Youth Volunteers, Senior Volunteers and Senior Volunteers for Overseas Japanese Communities, as well as the recipients of Japan Foundation Awards and Japan Foundation Special Prizes, among others. Their Majesties also listened to reports from ambassadors returning from their postings overseas and the Director-General of the Foreign Policy Bureau of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and received briefings prior to their attendance at various events. With regard to natural disasters, Their Majesties listened to reports concerning the status of damage following the Noto Peninsula Earthquake from the Governor of Ishikawa Prefecture, and about the status of damage following the Niigataken Chuetsu-oki Earthquake from the Governor of Niigata Prefecture.

In addition, Their Majesties received many members of royal families at the Imperial Residence, including His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu'izzaddin Waddaulah, the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam, and His Serene Highness Prince Albert II of the Principality of Monaco.

In Tokyo, as annual ceremonies, His Majesty attended the ceremonies for the opening of the Diet, and, 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. They also attended the first Ceremony of awarding the MIDORI (Green) Prize, the Opening Ceremony of the International Nuclear Physics Conference (INPC) 2007, the National Assembly of Welfare Volunteers and Child Welfare Volunteers to commemorate the 90th Anniversary of the Establishment of the Welfare Volunteer System, the Commemorative Ceremony of the 60th Anniversary of the Local Autonomy Law Enforcement, and the 60th Anniversary Ceremony of the Japan War-Bereaved Families Association. In addition, Their Majesties made various visits including the 39th NITTEN (Japan Fine Arts Exhibition) and the United Nations University.

As has been the case every year, around the time of Children's Day, Respect for the Aged Day and the Week for Disabled Persons, Their Majesties visited relevant institutions and gave words of encouragement to those living or working in these institutions. His Majesty paid an annual visit to a factory chosen by the Government.

Their Majesties visited a total of 17 cities, eight towns and one village in 10 prefectures in Japan in the past year. On these visits, Their Majesties attended various ceremonies such as the 58th National Arbor Day Festival (Hokkaido), the 62nd National Sports Festival (Akita Prefecture), and the 27th National Convention for the Development of an Abundantly Productive Sea (Shiga Prefecture). At the 11th International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) World Championships in Athletics Osaka 2007, His Majesty made the opening declaration. On these occasions, Their Majesties visited local cultural and welfare facilities.

In August, Their Majesties flew by helicopter to observe the situation in the region hit by the Niigata-ken Chuetsu Offshore Earthquake the previous month. Their Majesties went to the site, meeting the people affected by the disaster and extended their sympathies to them and expressed their appreciation to those who worked for the recovery and reconstruction. Their Majesties also went to Fukuoka City in October to visit the people affected by the West Offshore Fukuoka Prefecture Earthquake in 2005 and to observe the state of recovery. Their Majesties met and talked with the people affected by the disaster at their temporary shelters constructed within the city, and went by boat to Genkai-jima Island to speak with the residents there and express their appreciation to those who workide for the recovery and reconstruction.

Their Majesties have always been concerned about the provision of healthcare in rural regions, and in December paid a visit to Jichi Medical University (Tochigi Prefecture), jointly established by the prefectures throughout the country, which are responsible for community medicine. At the university, Their Majesties offered their appreciation to the alumni who have worked in healthcare in rural regions, and also talked with faculty members and students.

In May, in commemoration of the 300th anniversary of the birth of Carl von Linne, Their Majesties received invitations from the Kingdom of Sweden and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, both countries with strong links with Linne. His Majesty accompanied by Her Majesty made officials visits to the two countries to participate in the anniversary celebrations and on this occasion, Their Majesties also paid official visits to Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. In the United Kingdom, His Majesty gave the keynote speech "Linne and Taxonomy in Japan" in English at an event hosted by the Linnean Society of London to commemorate the anniversary. An outline of His Majesty's address was posted in the British science journal "Nature" and full text in Japanese in the "Proceedings of the Japan Academy". His Majesty was selected as one of the 50 Foreign Members of the Linnean Society of London in 1980, and since 1986 has been an Honorary Member.

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 rice plants with roots still attached, to the Ise Shrine on the occasion of the Kannamesai Ritual, and also offered some of the crops of rice together with millet which he cultivated separately for use in the Niinamesai Ritual.

As to the ritual ceremonies of the Imperial Palace, which were carried out at the temporary Imperial Palace Sanctuary this year except Niinamesai Ritual and Shiho-hai Ritual, His Majesty attended 38 ceremonies at the Imperial Palace Sanctuary, including the 1500th Anniversary of the Demise of Emperor Buretsu, the 1300th Anniversary of the Demise of Emperor Monmu, and the 900th Anniversary of the Demise of Emperor Horikawa.

This year His Majesty received on a total of 55 occasions, the Palace voluntary workforce, voluntary helpers at the Imperial Palace Sanctuary, and offerers of first-crop rice for the Niinamesai Ritual.

When he has been able to find time between his busy official duties, His Majesty continued his research on gobiid fish.

Since His Majesty underwent surgery for prostate cancer, he has continued to receive hormonal therapy. His Majesty, together with Her Majesty, takes early morning strolls, and on Sunday mornings he drives his car to Higashi Gyoen (East Garden) and they walk around Honmaru and Nino Maru. On weekends and holidays, Their Majesties take exercise such as playing tennis, when they do not have official duties.

On December 23, His Majesty will celebrate his 74th birthday.

On the morning of His Majesty's birthday, after attending the Tenchosai Ritual to be held in the Imperial Palace Sanctuary at 9:00 am, His Majesty will receive six felicitations from the people including the members of the Imperial Family and receive a toast of Celebratory Sake with the members of the Imperial Family. In the morning, His Majesty will also appear at the balcony of Chowa-den inside the Imperial Palace to receive congratulations from the public on three separate occasions. In the afternoon, His Majesty will receive congratulatory wishes from the leaders of the three branches of government, and have luncheon with the leaders of the three branches of government, members of the Cabinet, and representatives from various fields. There will also be tea with former senior officials of the Imperial Household Agency and others, which will be followed by tea with the heads of the diplomatic corps and their spouses. His Majesty will then return to the Imperial Residence where he will receive felicitations from the Grand Chamberlain and staff members of the Board of Chamberlains. In the evening, His Majesty will privately receive birthday wishes from his grandchildren, the junior members of the Imperial Family. The last official event will be tea with lecturers, friends and others. Later, His Majesty with Her Majesty will get together for a birthday dinner with the children and their spouses.

provisional translation

Birthday Celebration Schedule of His Majesty The Emperor

Sunday, December 23, 2007
Time Greetings received by Birthday Celebrations Attended by Location
9:00 am His Majesty The Emperor Tenchosai Ceremony   Imperial Palace Sanctuary
10:00 am His Majesty The Emperor Felicitations Grand Steward, Senior Officials and Special Advisors of the Imperial Household Agency Imperial Palace
10:05 am Her Majesty The Empress Felicitations Grand Steward, Vice-Grand Steward representing staff members, Special Advisors Imperial Palace
10:20 am Their Majesties The Emperor and Empress and other members of the Imperial Family Birthday felicitations from the public   Imperial Palace
10:30 am His Majesty The Emperor Felicitations Their Imperial Highnesses The Crown Prince and Crown Princess and other members of the Imperial Family Imperial Palace
10:30 am Her Majesty The Empress Felicitations Same as above Imperial Palace
10:35 am His Majesty The Emperor Felicitations Former members and relatives of the Imperial Family Imperial Palace
10:45 am Their Majesties The Emperor and Empress Toast of Celebratory Sake Their Imperial Highnesses The Crown Prince and Crown Princess, other members of the Imperial Family, former members and relatives of the Imperial Family Imperial Palace
11:05 am Their Majesties The Emperor and Empress and other members of the Imperial Family Birthday felicitations from the public   Imperial Palace
11:10 am His Majesty The Emperor Felicitations Staff members of the Imperial Household Agency and of the Imperial Guard Headquarters Imperial Palace
11:40 am Their Majesties The Emperor and Empress and other members of the Imperial Family Birthday felicitations from the public   Imperial Palace
11:45 am His Majesty The Emperor Felicitations Former staff members of the Imperial Household Agency and of the Imperial Guard Headquarters Imperial Palace
11:55 am His Majesty The Emperor Felicitations Representatives from theToshokai Imperial Palace
0:55 pm His Majesty The Emperor Felicitations Prime Minister, Speaker of the House of Representatives, President of the House of Councillors, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Imperial Palace
1:00 pm Their Majesties The Emperor and Empress and other members of the Imperial Family Celebratory Lunchon Prime Minister and other senior officials Imperial Palace
2:00 pm Their Majesties The Emperor and Empress Celebratory Tea Former Special Advisors, senior officials of the Imperial Household Agency, etc. Imperial Palace
3:00 pm Their Majesties The Emperor and Empress and other members of the Imperial Family Celebratory Tea Heads of diplomatic corps and their spouses Imperial Palace
4:00 pm Their Majesties The Emperor and Empress Felicitations Grand Chamberlain and staff members of the Board of Chamberlains Imperial Residence
4:30 pm Their Majesties The Emperor and Empress Celebratory Tea Their Imperial Highnesses Princess Aiko, Princess Mako* and Princess Kako* Imperial Residence
6:20 pm His Imperial Highness Prince Hisahito
5:00 pm Their Majesties The Emperor and Empress Celebratory Tea Lecturers, friends and others Imperial Residence
6:30 pm Their Majesties The Emperor and Empress Celebratory Dinner Their Imperial Highnesses The Crown Prince and Crown Princess, Prince Akishino, Mr. and Mrs. Kuroda Imperial Residence

NoticeAs Their Imperial Highnesses Princess Mako and Princess Kako are participating in the camps outside of Tokyo, a date will be set on their return for them to visit His Majesty the Emperor to offer their birthday wishes.