Date:June 11, 2008
At the Residence
I am extremely happy to have the opportunity to visit the Federative Republic of Brazil at the invitation of the Government of Brazil on this 100th Anniversary of Japanese Immigration to Brazil. I would like to extend my heartfelt gratitude to His Excellency President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and to the Government of Brazil. It has been 26 years since I first visited Brazil, in 1982.
This year marks the passing of exactly one century since the Kasato Maru vessel carried the first emigrants from Japan to Brazil. I look forward to meeting the immigrants and their descendants, hearing their stories, and reflecting on the hardships they have endured. I would also like to see for myself how they go about their daily lives in Brazil.
Prior to this visit, on 24 April I attended the commemorative ceremony of the Japan-Brazil Exchange Year/100th Anniversary of Japanese Immigration to Brazil held in Tokyo, as the Honorary President of the Japan-Brazil Exchange Year, in the presence of Their Majesties The Emperor and Empress of Japan. Moreover, on 28 April I attended the same Japan-Brazil Exchange Year event, this time held in Kobe. During the ceremony in Kobe, the Friendship Lamp was lit at the Overseas Immigration Center at which the Japanese emigrants spent their last days in the country before they left for Brazil. The Lamp then left the Port of Kobe at the exact hour at which the Kasato Maru departed for the Port of Santos, Brazil, a century ago. I was deeply moved as I thought back to the year 1908 when the Kasato Maru departed. I could not help but think of the anxieties and hardships that were endured by the many Japanese emigrants who went to Brazil in the years following that first voyage of the Kasato Maru. Meanwhile, I listened to the expressions of gratitude from the immigrants, which have been repeated over the years, for the warm welcome that was extended to them by Brazil.
I suppose that the first time that I felt a close connection to Brazil was when, at the age of seven, I watched a football match between Brazil and Japan. I recall being impressed by how skilled the Brazilian footballers were. After that, I also had an opportunity to meet Brazilians of Japanese descent at the Crown Prince's Palace and at other venues.
On my first visit to Brazil it took me only two days to fly by plane the same distance that the Kasato Maru traversed in 52 days. I was given an extremely warm welcome by the people of Brazil. I still remember my impression of its vast size, its great diversity and its cheerful people. Above all, as a Japanese person sharing the same roots, I recall the great respect that the Japanese descendants had earned in Brazilian society by their steadfast efforts to overcome countless difficulties. I was greatly inspired to see their efforts serving as the foundation of our bilateral relations.
A century after the departure of the Kasato Maru, relations between Japan and Brazil today are closer than could ever have been imagined back in those days, with more than 300,000 Brazilians of Japanese descent currently living in Japan. Moreover, Japan and Brazil have both achieved considerable development and are now expected to cooperate even more closely in order to resolve various issues in the international community.
I genuinely believe that the Brazilians of Japanese descent who travel back and forth between Japan and Brazil are truly serving as a bridge between our two countries. I earnestly hope that our two nations will continue to advance our relationship in the future, paying homage to the years of resolute efforts made by Japanese Brazilians and always bearing in mind the warm welcome extended by the Government of Brazil and the people of Brazil to the Japanese immigrants. For my part, on this coming visit I am looking forward to seeing a country that has achieved dramatic development during the last few years. I hope that my visit will contribute to furthering the relationship of friendship and goodwill between our two nations.
From the time of my childhood I have often heard, from Their Majesties The Emperor and Empress, of the countless difficulties endured by Japanese people who emigrated to the other side of the world, and of the great contributions they made to the country that welcomed them. I still remember Their Majesties recounting to me how, despite the severe circumstances in which these immigrants found themselves, they were able to win the trust of the local people through their unstinting efforts, and how encouraging it is to see their descendants taking an active part in so many fields and making contributions to Brazilian society. Their Majesties recall the hardships endured by the immigrants, but at the same time remind me that we should never forget the warm welcome extended by the Government of Brazil and the people of Brazil, who generously gave support to the immigrants over the course of many years. In fact, right up until today Their Majesties have told me about the difficult past experiences of the descendants of Japanese immigrants and recommended that I read a book on how the early settlers succeeded, after trial and error, in cultivating pepper and pimientos.
My very first overseas official visit was to Brazil, and my younger brother His Imperial Highness Prince Akishino as well as my younger sister Sayako, also chose Brazil for their first official overseas visits. I recall that Their Majesties were very pleased at these choices.
Their Majesties themselves also wanted to do something for Japanese Brazilians in this commemorative year marking the centennial of emigration. In April of this year they visited Oizumimachi in Gunma Prefecture, a town where many Japanese Brazilians are living, and expressed their concern for them. Moreover, as has already been announced, Their Majesties have decided to make donations to the Historic Museum of Japanese Immigration into Brazil, in Sao Paolo. I will be handing over these donations to the museum during my upcoming visit.
Princess Masako also appreciates it very much that she was invited by the Government of Brazil. Not only Masako but I, too, find it regrettable that she is not able to visit the country. The upcoming visit will involve traveling long distances from Japan. In addition, the stay will be a long one, due to the purpose of the visit, which is to attend events held across the country to commemorate the centennial of the emigration of Japanese nationals. Also, the scheduled events and exchange programs will follow one after another, with only short intervals between them. Based on the comprehensive assessment of all these conditions and following consultation with her doctors, I have decided to visit the country alone. This decision was made at an early stage, for the sake of the convenience of those people in Brazil who are preparing for our visit. It is regrettable that we will fall short of the expectations of local Brazilian people and Japanese Brazilians, who had hoped for a visit by both of us together. I would nevertheless appreciate it if these circumstances met with understanding.
In the case of Spain, we had more time to explore possibilities. But again, we have made a comprehensive decision that a visit by us both would be difficult. As for future overseas visits, I think we will make decisions on a case-by-case basis, while consulting with her doctors. Basically, as I have reiterated in the past, I will continue to view overseas visits as precious opportunities in enhancing friendly ties between Japan and other countries.
I have heard that currently more than two million people from other countries are residing in Japan. I have also heard, as you have just mentioned, that more than 300,000 of them are from Brazil. I believe that these people from overseas are making considerable contributions to Japan in various fields. On the other hand, I imagine that on many occasions they may encounter difficulties due to the differences in language and culture. Especially in the case of children, I have heard that more than a few of them are unable to follow classes or even attend school on account of their lack of Japanese-language abilities and for other reasons. For my part, I deem it important that we create an environment in which foreigners living in Japan, including children, and Japanese can live together, respecting the one another's culture. In this sense, at an event to commemorate the Japan-Brazil Year of Exchange and the 100th Anniversary of Japanese Immigration to Brazil held on April 24, I was deeply impressed when Japanese and Japanese Brazilian children, who were classmates studying together at an elementary school, jointly gave a presentation that they wanted to serve as a bridge between their two countries.
As you have stated, Brazil is an extremely distant country and there will be a series of events that I will attend, and likewise, many ceremonies and exchange events. Thus, after considering all of the relevant factors this time, I decided that it would be difficult for Princess Masako to accompany me. Certainly, various conditions could be considered, and in the future, when another visit is planned and when we deem that Princess Masako will be able to maintain her health during the visit, we will weigh that situation at that time. In any event, I strongly hope that visits such as these will prove beneficial to Princess Masako's recovery efforts.