Press Conference by His Imperial Highness The Crown Prince on the Occasion of His Visit to Europe(2004)

Press Conference

Press Conference on the occasion of His Imperial Highness the Crown Prince visit to Europe(2004)

Date:May 10, 2004

At the Residence

Question 1
Please tell us about your impressions of the Kingdom of Denmark, Portugal, and Spain, which you are going to visit, and your plans for the visit. What kind of shared memories do you have of Their Royal Highnesses The Crown Princes of Denmark and Spain, who are about to get married? In addition, please tell us your feelings about foregoing your visit to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan this time.
Response by His Imperial Highness the Crown Prince

I am very grateful for the invitations I have received from Denmark, Portugal and Spain and for the opportunity to visit these three countries. It will be my first visit to Denmark and Portugal. What immediately comes to mind when I think of Denmark is Hans Christian Andersen, the well-known fairy-tale writer, the statue of the Little Mermaid, and Kronborg Castle, where the play Hamlet was set. I have also heard that Denmark is a country with advanced social welfare policies and that it plays a significant role in international humanitarian aid, and that the social advancement of women is remarkable. Portugal is the first European country with which Japan came into contact, and I am very interested in the long-standing exchange that the two countries have enjoyed. I have visited Spain three times in the past. The people' s cheerfulness left an impression on me, and I was deeply struck by Alhambra Castle, the streets and buildings of Toledo and Avila, which are surrounded by castle walls, and by the paintings of Diego Velazquez and El Greco.

I would also like to take this opportunity to express my heartfelt condolences and sympathy for the many people who were killed or injured in the railroad bombing that occurred in Madrid.

The purpose of my visit to Denmark and Spain is to attend the weddings of His Royal Highness Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark and His Royal Highness the Prince of Asturias, Don Felipe de Borbon y Grecia and I would like to convey our congratulations. I would also like to renew the friendships I have had with people, including the members of the royal families of the countries that will be in attendance. I hope that my visit will be useful in promoting friendship and goodwill between Japan and these countries, including Portugal. I regret that Princess Masako cannot join me on this visit, and I sincerely hope that we will be able to go on overseas visits in the future.

I met His Royal Highness Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark when he visited Japan in 1997 and we had lunch together at the Togu Palace. We also met two years ago in 2002 on the occasion of the wedding of His Royal Highness the Crown Prince of the Netherlands and I had the impression that he was very cheerful and friendly. His Royal Highness Crown Prince Frederik spoke of the very hard training he had gone through as a military frogman. When I was studying in the United Kingdom, I was invited by His Majesty the King of Spain to his villa, which is located on the island of Mallorca, and I received warm hospitality from both His Majesty the King and His Royal Highness Crown Prince Felipe throughout my stay there. After my marriage, when His Royal Highness Crown Prince Felipe visited Japan as an official guest in 1998, we had lunch at the Togu Palace and went to Kamakura together as well. His Royal Highness Crown Prince Felipe is extremely tall, standing at nearly 2 meters, and the Japanese-style house, where we had lunch, felt rather small.

By the way, on May 1st, the European Union (EU) expanded to include 25 countries. Although the three countries that I will visit have been members of the EU for some time, I hope that on my trip I will be able to see how these countries will fare in this new EU structure.

Furthermore, all three countries are traditional maritime powers and I hope that I will be able to acquire new knowledge concerning maritime transport or river transport, which is my area of expertise.

As for Jordan, I visited there nine years ago. Although my itinerary had to be greatly reduced on that occasion, I was received with truly heartfelt hospitality from the then king His Majesty King Hussein bin Talal. His Majesty King Hussein later regrettably passed away and the memory of my attendance at the funeral is truly profound. In this sense, I would have liked to attend the wedding celebrations for His Royal Highness Crown Prince Hamzah bin al-Hussein and convey my congratulations. I regret that I was unable to make that visit for various reasons. I wish the couple many years of happiness and I look forward to the opportunity to meet them.

Question 2
There was talk until the last minute about Her Imperial Highness The Crown Princess also making the trip this time, but in the end the plans were abandoned. Please tell us about the events leading up to Your Imperial Highness making the visit alone, as well as your feelings and those of Her Imperial Highness about the outcome. We would also like to ask again about the current condition and prospects of recovery of Her Imperial Highness.
Response by His Imperial Highness the Crown Prince

As for the overseas visit this time, Princess Masako and I were truly hoping that we both would be able to make the visit together. However, since Princess Masako has not fully recovered her health and after consulting with doctors, it was decided that I would make the visit alone. Princess Masako is deeply grateful for the invitations that she received from the various countries, and regrets from the bottom of her heart that in the end she was not able to accept the invitations, despite the effort that she made to recover her health.

Princess Masako, giving up her job as a diplomat to enter the Imperial Household, was greatly distressed that she was not allowed to make overseas visits for a long time as she believed that such overseas visits were a crucial role to play as a member of the Imperial Family in promoting international goodwill. Princess Masako herself is sincerely regretful that she lost the valuable opportunity to attend the weddings as the Crown Princess due to her inadequate health. I am indeed regretful too and I feel that I am wrenching myself away as I depart. The two of us have always been treated warmly by the members of the royal families of Europe. We have many fond memories with His Royal Highness Crown Prince Frederik and His Royal Highness the Prince of Asturias, Don Felipe de Borbon y Grecia, albeit on limited occasions, and Princess Masako seems to find the outcome this time very regretful.

Princess Masako was able to spend some quiet time recuperating in Nagano Prefecture, thanks to the cooperation of many people. I would like to take this opportunity to express my heartfelt gratitude, together with Princess Masako, to the people who have given their cooperation. Princess Masako asked me to convey her gratefulness to all the people concerned. I think that the stay in Nagano Prefecture was very beneficial, but Princess Masako still faces ups and downs in terms of her health. As I said at the press conference on my birthday, Princess Masako has worked hard to adapt to the environment of the Imperial Household for the past 10 years, but from what I can see, I think she has completely exhausted herself in trying to do so. It is true that there were developments that denied Princess Masako' s career up to then as well as her personality driven by her career. Recently she has taken time off from her official duties, and she spends the days encouraged by the fact that lately she can do things for our child, which she could not do before because she was struggling to balance her official duties and bringing up our child. In this sense, it appears that Princess Masako is gradually regaining her confidence, but I believe that much tact and effort will have to be expended for Princess Masako to recover her original full spirit and strength, which are required to return to her official duties. Therefore, perhaps it may take longer than was initially expected for her to return to her official duties. I intend to provide as much cooperation and support as possible, while seeking the understanding of those around us, so that Princess Masako can regain her usual spirited self soon. In order for Princess Masako to return to her official duties in the future in accordance with the doctors' opinions, I think that it is necessary to create opportunities for her to go on private outings in a quiet setting in order to make the transition. I sincerely hope that the quiet environment will continue to be maintained.

Question 3
When you go to Europe this time, you will attend the royal weddings. The Royal Family and the people share a close relationship in Denmark and a woman has ascended the throne. In Japan, there has been discussion on two points whether or not a woman should ascend the Imperial Throne, and whether or not Your Imperial Highness and your family should have the burden of official duties reduced. Are there any lessons that could be learned from the Royal Family of Denmark concerning a woman ascending the Imperial Throne and Your Imperial Highness and your family having the burden of official duties reduced?
Response by His Imperial Highness the Crown Prince

As I mentioned earlier, this will be my first opportunity to visit Denmark. Although the purpose of this visit is to attend the wedding of His Royal Highness Crown Prince Frederik, I also am looking forward to making the most of my three days there to learn about the Danish Royal Family and many other aspects of Denmark. In all countries, the systems, including the system of royal families, are rooted in their histories, cultures and the ways of thinking of the people, and during my visit I intend to deepen my understanding of the history, culture and the ways of thinking of the Danish people which form the background to their various systems. Regarding the ideal form for official duties, as I have stated in the past, I believe that there is a need to review them while reflecting on the appropriate image for the Imperial Family in this new age. I will refrain from commenting here on the matter of whether or not a woman could ascend to the throne.

Related Question
Although this question may seem somewhat impudent, earlier Your Imperial Highness mentioned developments that denied Princess Masako' s career and personality. As far as you can, could you please explain what you had in mind when you said that?
Response by His Imperial Highness the Crown Prince

I will refrain from going into details but I would like to mention one thing, which is that both Princess Masako and I have been very concerned because we have unfortunately not been able to take many overseas trips.

unofficial translation