Press Conference on the occasion of His Majesty's Birthday (2010)

Questions by the Press to be answered by His Majesty on the Occasion of His Majesty's Birthday(2010), and the Activities of the Emperor over the Past Year

Press Conference on the Occasion of His Majesty's Birthday (2010)

(Imperial Household Agency Press Club)

Question 1
This year, while there have been bright news such as the Nobel Prize in Chemistry being awarded to two Japanese scientists, there have also been, domestically, the problem of the elderly people unaccounted for and externally, the Senkaku Island issue. Looking back over the past year, please tell us Your Majesty's thoughts with regard to these issues and also with regard to the friendship and exchanges with neighbouring countries.
Answer 1

Many things have happened in the past year.

The cases of the elderly people unaccounted for, which you referred to in the question, came as a surprise to myself as well, as it was totally unexpected. I used to think that it was a blessing for people to live long and reach old age. It has now become evident that, among those elderly who were thought to be well and sound, there are some whose fate and whereabouts are unknown, which is most regrettable. In this ageing society, it is extremely important to provide proper care for the elderly. I know that there are numerous difficulties such as shortage of people involved in medical care and nursing care, but I earnestly hope that the number of people dedicating themselves to the care of the elderly will increase so that the elderly will be able to live their old age in peace.

While there was not much damage caused by typhoons this year, heavy rains in many parts of the country during the rainy season caused disasters resulting in casualties. In October, torrential rains, the likes of which the local people had never experienced before, struck Amami-Oshima island in Kagoshima prefecture, causing a major disaster and loss of lives. I deeply sympathise with the sorrow of the bereaved families and the suffering of those who lost their homes. The islanders, who had to spend hours cut off from transportation and communication, must have been so anxious. More than 40 years ago, the Empress and I visited Amami-Oshima and traveled the mountain path from the then-Naze city to the then-Sumiyo village, which suffered major damage this time. Recalling our visit back then, I can well imagine the difficulties encountered by the people involved in rescue operations in such a mountainous island with the roads cut off.

We had a long spell of intense heat in many parts of the country during the summer, and it was tragic that many elderly people lost their lives due to heatstroke. There have been cases of elderly people living by themselves or doing farm work who died because they did not realise that they were in serious danger of heatstroke. It is important, therefore, to improve our knowledge of heatstroke and to encourage everyone to care more about health. The scorching heat caused major damage to agriculture as well, and I feel for the people engaged in agriculture and the hardships they are going through.

A major incident in agriculture was the outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in Miyazaki prefecture. I deeply sympathise with the sorrow of the people who were forced to kill all the cows and pigs that they had raised with care for many years, and with the hard work of the veterinarians and many others engaged in the vaccination, killing of the animals, and other operations that are physically dangerous. I think very highly of the cooperation extended by the people of the prefecture who managed to prevent the damage from spreading to other prefectures.

One of the bright news was, as you pointed out in the question, the Nobel Prize in Chemistry being awarded to two Japanese scientists. I felt truly happy watching the news on television of the two receiving their medals from His Majesty the King of Sweden at the ceremony. I am looking forward to hearing from the two scientists and their wives about the event early in the new year.

The landing of the asteroid explorer "Hayabusa" on the asteroid "Itokawa" and its return with micro-particles was a truly delightful feat of the year. Hayabusa overcame many malfunctions, including being lost for sometime, and finally returned to earth. I was deeply moved by the fact that even when Hayabusa went missing, those involved never gave up hope, came up with various ideas, and finally managed to bring it home.

This year, 2010, was the International Year of Biodiversity declared by the United Nations, a year in which participants from many countries were welcomed to the city of Nagoya for the 10th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity. Many lively discussions took place, and I was pleased that the conference concluded successfully by ultimately achieving a consensus among all the participating countries. I believe it was a meaningful conference which raised more people's awareness of biodiversity.

Towards the end of this International Year of Biodiversity, one additional species of freshwater fish was found in Japan: kunimasu, Oncorhynchus kawamurae , a species of trout whose discovery was reported in the press recently. Kunimasu lived only in Lake Tazawa, but it died out sometime between 1935 and 1945, when highly acidic river water was drawn into the lake to increase its water volume in order to use the lake water for power generation. Before kunimasu died out, however, the fish's roe had been transplanted to Lake Sai-ko in Yamanashi prefecture. It was confirmed this year that the fish had been propagating to this day in the lake. I think we can truly call it a miracle fish. Kunimasu brings back memories of the time when I was 12 years old. I read in a book titled Shonen Kagaku Monogatari (Boys' Science Stories) by Dr. Masamitsu Oshima that kunimasu in Lake Tazawa would one day become extinct as a result of the inflow of acidic water. This remained deeply engraved in my mind. Sixty-five years thence, I heard the good news about the surviving kunimasu. I wish to express my deep respect to Professor Tetsuji Nakabo of Kyoto University who made a major contribution to this discovery of kunimasu and who will soon publish a paper on kunimasu. I am also pleased that "Sakana-kun," Visiting Associate Professor at Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology, and many others were involved in and worked together for the discovery of the fish this time. As for the future of kunimasu, when considering that it has succeeded in surviving until today while the Lake Sai-ko Fisheries Cooperative managed the fishery of the lake, it seems best to continue to watch over kunimasu in that way. At the same time, it is absolutely necessary to consider spreading the risk so that kunimasu does not become extinct in the future.

With regard to the friendship and exchanges with neighbouring countries, I believe it is extremely important to nurture them. On the question related to the Senkaku Islands issue, in my position, I wish to refrain from touching on the subject.

Question 2
Your Majesty is celebrating Your 77th birthday. This year Your Majesty experienced some health problems, a Norovirus-induced acute enteritis in February and a cold in June. Her Majesty the Empress, in Her written response to a question on the occasion of Her birthday, wrote: "I also often experience symptoms that seem to be caused by ageing. I find these incidents amusing at times, but I also feel a bit helpless." Please tell us how You feel about Your own ageing and also about Your official duties as Your Majesty advances in age.
Answer 2

Since the autumn of the year before last, I have had problems with my health including an irregular heartbeat and several schedules were cancelled or postponed. At that time it was decided that some of my official duties should be reduced. At the moment I am not planning on making any more major reductions of my work load. As you mentioned in the question, I had some health problems this year as well, which meant some of my schedules had to be changed, causing the people concern. Nowadays, travelling through the streets by car, I often hear people calling out, "Please take care." I am deeply grateful that many people care and are concerned about my health.

With regard to ageing, I have become somewhat hard of hearing, so when I receive people, I ask those around me to tell this to them and to ask them to try to talk to me in a louder voice. When watching the news and other programmes on television, I can understand what the announcers are saying but when it comes to listening to the other people's conversations on TV, I find myself often relying on subtitles. I never realized until now that announcers speak so clearly and are so easy to understand.

This summer I climbed Mount Sekison with Prince Akishino's family. Climbing was not such a problem, but the climb down was slippery, and I was sometimes helped by Prince Akishino and Mako, who walked behind me. This is something that did not occur to me when I climbed the mountain before. I have touched on some of the signs of ageing that I have experienced as one of the elderly, but I think there are many symptoms of ageing that younger people would find hard to imagine. In our society today, where the ageing population continues to grow, it is my sincere hope that there will be further understanding of the needs of the elderly and that more and more attention will be paid to make buildings and towns better equipped to serve the needs of the elderly.

Question 3
This is a question about the Imperial Family. As Your Majesty sees the four grandchildren at the Imperial Residence and at the Imperial Villas, You must be impressed by how they are growing up. Please tell us about the thoughts that have occurred to Your Majesty through Your contacts with Your grandchildren, perhaps by referring to some specific episodes. Princess Aiko, the eldest daughter of Their Imperial Highnesses the Crown Prince and Princess, has not been able to go to school in the normal way since March, and Crown Princess Masako has had to accompany Princess Aiko to school every day, which has prevented Crown Princess Masako from adequately performing her official duties. How does Your Majesty regard the current situation of the Crown Prince's family?
Answer 3

This year Aiko, who became a third grader at Gakushuin Primary School, found it difficult to go to school, which was something we did not foresee, and we are worried about it. I am also much concerned for the Crown Prince and Princess, who must be so worried as well. Because of this, opportunities to see Aiko have been limited, so, regrettably, it is difficult to tell you anything in terms of exchanges with her. The Empress has much affection for Aiko as she does for all Her grandchildren, and Aiko also expresses her love for the Empress whenever she comes here by presenting Her with flowers which Aiko has picked from her garden. When she came the other day, she eagerly showed the Empress a video of her cat on her camera. In the visual footages of her school field day, Aiko looked lively and seemed to be enjoying herself as she did last year, and I was relieved to see it.

I am pleased that Mako, who entered International Christian University, seems to be enjoying college life. In the summer she participated in an overseas English training programme and spent almost 40 days in Ireland living with people from different countries. After returning to Japan, she showed us photographs with detailed explanations. It is my hope that she will spend her days at university in such a way that one day she can look back on those days and think that it was a meaningful time.

Kako has advanced to Gakushuin Girls' High School. From this year she has started to attend, together with Prince and Princess Akishino, the All-Japan High School Cultural Festival, which Mako used to attend every year while she was in high school. I think it is a good thing for her to have the opportunity to talk with students from other high schools at events for high school students. When the Crown Prince's family and Prince Akishino's family gather at our Residence and the grown-ups are engaged in conversation, Kako often looks after Aiko and Hisahito and plays with them. It gives me pleasure to watch the care and consideration Kako shows to others.

Hisahito entered Ochanomizu University Kindergarten, and seems to be enjoying kindergarten life. He loves insects, and in the autumn, he came to the Biological Laboratory of the Imperial Household and also the gardens of our Residence, and caught grasshoppers and mantes. He is also interested in fruits and enjoyed observing how the grapes were growing in the Biological Laboratory of the Imperial Household and picking persimmons, and so on. On Prince Akishino's birthday, when the Empress showed Hisahito a fragrant karin (Chinese quince) fruit that She had picked in the garden that day, Hisahito went around carrying that heavy fruit very dearly wherever he went; it was a most endearing sight.

Regarding the current state of the Crown Prince's family, as the Crown Princess is not well I would like to refrain from making any comments. Much is said about her official duties, but it is my hope that she will strive first and foremost to regain her health.

Related Question
Last year Your Majesty visited Canada and Hawaii with Her Majesty and strengthened friendship and goodwill during the two-week journey. Your Majesty did not make any overseas trips this year, and as efforts are being made to lessen the burden on Your Majesty, taking into account your advancing age, any overseas visits will need to be considered even more carefully than before, particularly regarding the itinerary. What are Your Majesty's thoughts on future overseas visits?

Regarding overseas visits, I often receive invitations from the heads of state of foreign countries, and my answer to them always is that it is up to the Government of Japan to consider and make decisions regarding my visit. That is how it is with my overseas visits, and when the place is decided, I shall do my best to make the visit meaningful.

provisional translation

Recent Portraits of His Majesty the Emperor on the occasion of His Majesty's Birthday

The Activities of His Majesty the Emperor Over the Past Year

His Majesty the Emperor celebrated Kiju , His 77th birthday, in good health this 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 885 documents received from the Cabinet.

At the Imperial Palace, His Majesty attended many ceremonies and events including the Imperial Investiture of the Prime Minister, the accreditation of senior Japanese officials (Ministers of State and others totaling 136), and presentation of Letters of Credentials by 32 newly arrived foreign ambassadors, presided over awards and decoration ceremonies for the Order of the Grand Cordon and the Order of Culture, and also received in audience the recipients of decorations. In addition, His Majesty received briefings from administrative vice-ministers of government ministries, the Governor of the Bank of Japan and others. Together with Her Majesty the Empress, His Majesty further received in audience people who have made contributions in various fields and attended many events such as luncheons and teas. As the Winter Olympics and Paralympic Games were held in Vancouver this year, Their Majesties invited the award-winners of both games to tea to honour their achievements.

At the Imperial Residence, Their Majesties met, as They do annually, with members of the Japan Academy and the Japan Art Academy; Director General of the Research Promotion Bureau of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology and others; Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers who had returned to Japan and representatives of youth and senior overseas volunteers; and the recipients of the Japan Foundation Awards, among others. Their Majesties listened to regular reports from the Director-General of the Foreign Policy Bureau of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and received briefings prior to Their attendance at various events, on a total of 47 occasions this year. Furthermore, on a total of 54 occasions, His Majesty received the Palace voluntary workforce, voluntary helpers at the Imperial Palace Sanctuary, and offerers of first-crop rice for the Niinamesai ritual.

While They made no overseas visits this year, Their Majesties welcomed to the Imperial Palace and Residence many guests from overseas. In May, They welcomed His Majesty the King of Cambodia as a State Guest in whose honour They held a State Banquet. Their Majesties also received the following heads of state who were on official working visits to Japan and hosted court luncheons for them; the President of the United Mexican States and his spouse, the President of Lao People's Democratic Republic and his spouse, the President of Romania and his spouse, the President of the Republic of Ghana, the President of Mongolia and his spouse as well as the President of the Plurinational State of Bolivia. Their Majesties met with the President of Timor-Leste, the President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, the President of the Republic of Ecuador, the President of the Republic of Botswana, the President of the Republic of Guatemala, and the President of the Republic of Djibouti, as well as with the President of the Gabonese Republic and his spouse, and His Majesty the Sultan of Brunei Darussalam. Furthermore, Their Majesties met with the Speaker of the Senate of the Republic of Poland, the Prime Minister of Malaysia and his spouse, the President of the European Council and his spouse and the President of the European Commission, the President of the Parliament of the Kingdom of Sweden, the President of the National Assembly of Lao PDR and his spouse, the Premier of the State Council of the People's Republic of China, the Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Spain, the President of the Grand National Assembly of the Republic of Turkey, the Prime Minister of the Republic of India and his spouse, and the Prime Minister of the People's Republic of Bangladesh. This year, as usual, Their Majesties invited to teas newly appointed foreign ambassadors and their spouses, to luncheons foreign ambassadors and their spouses who have resided in Japan for more than three years, and received in audience foreign ambassadors and their spouses finishing their postings in Japan. Together with Her Majesty, His Majesty met with newly-appointed Japanese ambassadors and their spouses departing for overseas posts. Their Majesties also extended invitations to tea to Japanese ambassadors and their spouses returning to Japan and listened to various accounts of their experiences in the countries they had been assigned to.

At the Imperial Residence, Their Majesties hosted luncheons and dinners for His Majesty the King of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and members of the Royal Family, the Crown Prince of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Their Royal Highnesses Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn and Princess Chulabhorn Walailak of the Kingdom of Thailand, and His Royal Highness Prince Albert II of the Principality of Monaco and his fiancée. Their Majesties invited to dinner the Prime Minister of Canada and his spouse who were visiting Japan to attend the APEC Economic Leaders' Meeting and expressed their gratitude for the hospitality They received during Their visit to Canada last year.

In and around Tokyo, His Majesty attended the opening of the Diet, and as He does each year with Her Majesty, attended the Memorial Ceremony for the War Dead, numerous anniversary ceremonies and events held this year, including the award ceremonies for the Japan Prize, the International Prize for Biology, the Japan Art Academy Award, and the Japan Academy Prize, and at ceremonies marking a special anniversary year, His Majesty delivered addresses. As has been the case every year, around the time of Children's Day in May, Respect for the Aged Day in September and the Week of Disabled Persons in December, Their Majesties visited relevant institutions and gave words of encouragement to those living or working in those institutions. In June, as an observation of industrial facilities, His Majesty visited a manufacturer of medical equipment known for its nano technology, as a way of showing His encouragement of industry. Altogether, His Majesty made visits in and around Tokyo on 45 occasions.

As for the Science Council of Japan's international conference, which He attends once a year, His Majesty attended the opening ceremony and reception of the 14th International Congress of Endocrinology held in Kyoto prefecture in March as a fiscal 2009 visit, and the opening ceremony and reception of the 21st IUPAC International Conference on Chemical Thermodynamics held in Ibaraki prefecture in August, as a fiscal 2010 visit.

During this past year, His Majesty has made official visits to nine prefectures: Kyoto, Kanagawa, Shizuoka, Gifu, Aichi, Ibaraki, Chiba, Nara and Saitama. On these visits, His Majesty attended ceremonies such as the National Arbour Day Festival (Kanagawa), the National Convention for the Development of an Abundantly Productive Sea (Niigata) and the National Sports Festival (Chiba). On these visits, Their Majesties also observed the local culture, welfare and industrial conditions. They also attended commemorative ceremonies in Nara city as the city celebrated the 1300th anniversary of the Nara Heijo-kyo capital, and observed the local conditions. On this occasion Their Majesties also paid visits to the Imperial Mausoleums of Emperor Genmei and Emperor Konin, the first and last emperors of the Nara Heijo-kyo capital, as well as to temples with historical associations. Their Majesties visited a total of 29 cities, five towns and one village in the course of their official duties in the past year.

On Their way to the Suzaki Imperial Villa in early April, Their Majesties enjoyed strolls through a coastal forest that encourages fish breeding ( uotsuki ho-an-rin ) in the town of Manazuru, Kanagawa prefecture, and a satoyama called "Ike-no-sato" in the city of Ito, Shizuoka prefecture. In July, Their Majesties visited the Nasu Imperial Village and as in other years visited a farmhouse. Accompanied by Nasu park rangers, They enjoyed Nature, strolling through the grounds of the Nasu Imperial Villa, which was placed under the purview of the Ministry of the Environment in 2008.

As to the ritual ceremonies of the Imperial Palace, in addition to the annual ceremonies, His Majesty attended a total of 28 ritual ceremonies over the past year including the 300th anniversary of Emperor Higashiyama, the 1600th anniversary of Emperor Hanzei, the 2300th anniversary of Emperor Kouan and the 1700th anniversary of Emperor Oujin. With regard to Niinamesai , His Majesty the Emperor attended the evening ritual as always and the morning ritual for a limited time only. As for the Shunsai held on the first day of each month, His Majesty attended the rituals on May 1st and October 1st, and a chamberlain worshipped on His behalf on other days.

With regard to Fishes of Japan with Pictorial Keys to the Species , His Majesty has been involved in the chapter on gobioid fishes from its first edition published in 1993. Work has now started on the third edition, and His Majesty meets with the editor Dr. Tetsuji Nakabo, professor of Kyoto University, at the Biological Laboratory of the Imperial Household about three times a month to discuss the classification of gobioid fishes together with the staff of the Laboratory. He attended the monthly meeting of the Fish Systematics Seminar held in the Annex of the National Museum of Nature and Science six times this year. In February, together with Her Majesty, He visited the Exhibition "The World of Goby and Its Diversity" commemorating the 20th Anniversary of His Majesty's Accession to the Throne, held at the National Museum of Nature and Science.

As in every year in the past, His Majesty himself hand-sowed seed-rice, transplanted it, and hand-reaped the rice crop in the paddy field of the Biological Laboratory of the Imperial Household. His Majesty also sowed millet-seeds and harvested the millets with His grandchildren, and offered some of it for use in the Niinamesai ritual together with the hand-reaped crop of rice. His Majesty also offered rice plants with roots still attached, which He Himself had planted, to the Ise Shrine on the occasion of the Kannamesai ritual.

Since His Majesty underwent an operation for prostate cancer in 2003, He has been undergoing hormonal therapy to prevent its recurrence, which, at the same time, causes a decline in bone density as a side effect. To ensure that this side effect does not lead to osteoporosis and to keep fit, His Majesty continues with His exercise regimen. Their Majesties take early morning strolls near the Imperial Residence and, on Sunday mornings, in the East Garden of the Imperial Palace. On weekends and holidays when They do not have official duties, Their Majesties might play tennis or do other exercises. In early February, His Majesty showed signs of acute enteritis, and upon examination by His physician, acute enteritis caused by Norovirus was diagnosed. In June, His Majesty showed fever and other cold-like symptoms while staying at the Hayama Imperial Villa. As a precaution, some of the scheduled outings from the Imperial Villa were canceled.

On December 23rd, His Majesty the Emperor will celebrate His 77th birthday.

On the morning of His birthday, after attending the Tenchosai to be held in the Imperial Palace Sanctuary at 9:00 a.m., His Majesty will attend five separate events at the Imperial Palace to receive felicitations from various people, including the members of the Imperial Family. His Majesty will also have a toast of celebratory sake with the members of the Imperial Family. In between these events, His Majesty will appear on the balcony of Chowa-den in the Imperial Palace to receive congratulations from the public on three separate occasions. In the afternoon, His Majesty will have a luncheon with the leaders of the three branches of government, members of the Cabinet and representatives of various fields. There will also be tea with former senior officials of the Imperial Household Agency, which will be followed by tea with the diplomatic corps. 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 late afternoon, His Majesty will attend the last official event of the day, which is tea with lecturers, friends and others. In the evening, His Majesty will privately receive birthday wishes from his grandchildren. Later, His Majesty will sit down to a birthday dinner together with Her Majesty, the children and their spouses.

provisional translation

Birthday Celebration Schedule of His Majesty The Emperor

Thursday, December 23, 2010
Time Greetings received by Birthday Celebrations Attended by Location
9:00 a.m. His Majesty The Emperor Tenchosai Ceremony    Imperial Palace Sanctuary
10:00 a.m. His Majesty The Emperor Felicitations Grand Steward, Senior Officials and Special Advisors of the Imperial Household Agency Imperial Palace
10:05 a.m. Her Majesty The Empress Felicitations Grand Steward, Vice-Grand Steward representing staff members, Special Advisors Imperial Palace
10:20 a.m. Their Majesties The Emperor and Empress and other members of the Imperial Family Birthday felicitations from the public    Imperial Palace
10:30 a.m. His Majesty The Emperor Felicitations Ceremony Their Imperial Highnesses The Crown Prince and Crown Princess and other members of the Imperial Family Imperial Palace
10:30 a.m. Her Majesty The Empress Felicitations Same as above Imperial Palace
10:40 a.m. 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
11:00 a.m. Their Majesties The Emperor and Empress and other members of the Imperial Family Birthday felicitations from the public    Imperial Palace
11:05 a.m. His Majesty The Emperor Felicitations Staff members of the Imperial Household Agency and of the Imperial Guard Headquarters Imperial Palace
11:40 a.m. Their Majesties The Emperor and Empress and other members of the Imperial Family Birthday felicitations from the public    Imperial Palace
11:45 a.m. His Majesty The Emperor Felicitations Former staff members of the Imperial Household Agency and of the Imperial Guard Headquarters Imperial Palace
11:55 a.m. His Majesty The Emperor Felicitations 3 Representatives from the Toshokai Imperial Palace
0:55 p.m. His Majesty The Emperor Felicitations Ceremony Prime Minister, Speaker of the House of Representatives, President of the House of Councillors, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Imperial Palace
1:00 p.m. 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 p.m. Their Majesties The Emperor and Empress Celebratory Tea Former Special Advisors, senior officials of the Imperial Household Agency, etc. Imperial Palace
3:00 p.m. Their Majesties The Emperor and Empress and other members of the Imperial Family Celebratory Tea Heads of diplomatic corps and their spouses Imperial Palace
3:50 p.m. Their Majesties The Emperor and Empress Felicitations and Toast of Celebratory Sake Grand Chamberlain and staff members of the Board of Chamberlains Imperial Residence
4:30 p.m. Their Majesties The Emperor and Empress Celebratory Tea Lecturers, friends and others Imperial Residence
5:10 p.m. Their Majesties The Emperor and Empress Felicitations Their Imperial Highnesses Princess Aiko, Princess Mako, Princess Kako, Prince Hisahito Imperial Residence
6:30 p.m. Their Majesties The Emperor and Empress Celebratory Dinner Their Imperial Highnesses The Crown Prince and Crown Princess, Prince and Princess Akishino, Mr. and Mrs. Kuroda Imperial Residence

provisional translation