Press Conference by His Imperial Highness The Crown Prince on the Occasion of His Visit to the Federal Republic of Germany (2011)

Press Conference

Press Conference by His Imperial Highness The Crown Prince on the Occasion of His Visit to the Federal Republic of Germany (2011)

Date:June 17, 2011

At the Residence

Questions from the Imperial Household Agency Press Club

Question 1
When the Great East Japan Earthquake occurred, nations around the world, including Germany, which Your Imperial Highness is about to visit, extended various kinds of support to Japan, and this has given us an opportunity to reaffirm the significance of friendly international relations. On the other hand, three months have elapsed since the earthquake and yet it will still take considerable time for the disaster-stricken regions to be fully reconstructed. In addition, how the accident at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station will develop remains unclear. Against this backdrop, Your Imperial Highness considerately decided to shorten the period of your stay in Germany. When you visited the Middle East in 1995 after the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake, Your Imperial Highness stated that you found it difficult to leave the country in such a situation. Please tell us the expectations you have for your visit to Germany as an Honorary President of the 150th Anniversary of the Commencement of Japan-Germany Relations, a country with which you have been engaged through various exchange activities over many years, as well as your thoughts about making a visit abroad at such a time as this.
Answer 1

I would first of all like to express my heartfelt sorrow for the many people who lost their lives in the Great East Japan Earthquake. It has been three months since the earthquake caused extremely severe damage, yet there are still many people who are living in great inconvenience at evacuation centers and elsewhere. I once again extend my deepest sympathy to the bereaved families and the people afflicted by the disaster. It is my hope that the victims of this disaster will continue receiving warm and abundant support from many people and that the disaster-stricken regions will fully recover and be reconstructed as soon as possible. My heart also goes out to the hard-working people who are carrying out recovery and reconstruction activities at the sites of disaster with much devotion day and night.

Masako and I have always held close to our heart the people living in great inconvenience due to the Great East Japan Earthquake and we intend to do so far into the future, keeping watch over the reconstruction process. On that basis, we would like to continue having opportunities to visit people in the disaster-affected regions, while thoroughly taking into account the circumstances of recipient prefectures, so that we may extend our sympathy and see the actual situation with our own eyes.

We have received words of sympathy and various kinds of assistance from many countries of the world for this disaster that Japan has suffered. I take this opportunity to express my sincere gratitude to them.

My official visit to Germany this time is going to be made in my capacity as an Honorary President for the 150th Anniversary of the Commencement of Japan-Germany Relations upon the kind invitation of the President of the Federal Republic of Germany, His Excellency Mr. Christian Wulff. I extend my appreciation to President Wulff and the government of Germany.

This year commemorates the 150th anniversary of the commencement of Japan-Germany relations and accordingly various events are planned this year in the two countries, with President Wulff and I serving as Honorary President in Germany and Japan, respectively. I myself have attended several of these events since January of this year. My visit to Germany as an Honorary President has been arranged as part of the events and the visit was set to take place at this point in time as a result of consultations between the governments of Japan and Germany.

Initially, plans had been made to include, in the itinerary of my official visit, visits to regions outside of the capital. Then the Great East Japan Earthquake occurred on March 11. In light of the severity of the damage caused by the earthquake, the Japanese side requested that my stay in Germany be shortened, with the visit being limited to the capital city, Berlin. The German side subsequently expressed their understanding and thus the decision was made for all official events of the visit to take place in Berlin only. I thank the German government for its consideration in this matter. I would be pleased if my visit provides the peoples of Japan and Germany with an opportunity to look back on the long history of exchanges between the two countries, and gives Japan and Germany an opportunity to further strengthen their good relations in the future.

In the wake of the Great East Japan Earthquake, words of sympathy were delivered by President Wulff, who kindly invited me to Germany this time, as well as by the German citizens, in addition to the German government. I have also learned that they have given us a variety of assistance. I intend to take as many opportunities as possible to express my gratitude to German people with whom I am going to meet during my stay in the country for the words of sympathy and the variety of assistance they extended to us.

If I were to speak briefly about my relationship with Germany, I would say that through music and literature I have always felt close to German culture since my childhood. I acquired an interest in the history of transport and in the course of development of cities in Germany as I studied the history of transport in medieval times in Japan. I still have fond memories of travelling down the Rhine aboard a ship and visiting Hamburg, Lubeck, and Luneburg, major cities of the Hanseatic League in medieval times, on my first visit to cities in what was then West Germany in 1985 when I was studying in the United Kingdom. Speaking of music, I was really happy to visit the Beethoven-Haus Museum in Bonn, the capital at that time.

It was in 1987, when the Berlin Wall still existed, that I visited Germany for the second time. It was an official visit and I had an opportunity to attend the opening ceremony of the Japanese-German Center Berlin in West Berlin, the building of which now houses the Japanese Embassy in Germany. I remember how shocked I was, to be frank, to realize the stern reality of international politics when I first saw the Berlin Wall that divided Germany, a symbol of the Cold War era created when I was one year old. On that occasion, after my stay in Berlin, I also visited cities in the southern part of Germany such as Munich and Rothenburg, and enjoyed the singular atmosphere so different from that of cities in the northern part of the country.

While I have not made an official visit to Germany since becoming Crown Prince, my relationship with Germany continued as I served as Honorary President for Japan Year in Germany in 1999 and 2000 and German Year in Japan in 2005 and 2006. The visit I make this time will be my first official visit to Germany in 24 years and the first visit to the unified Germany. Their Majesties the Emperor and the Empress shared with me various things they experienced when they visited Germany in 1993. Now that I have a chance to visit Berlin, the capital city of the new Germany, which no longer has the Berlin Wall, I would like to see for myself how things have changed since 1987. I am also looking forward to meeting with many people in Germany.

I will make my visit to Germany this month amidst the Japan-Germany celebrations of the 150th anniversary of their relations. I would like to look back on the history of Germany, as it expressed its friendship to Japan in the throes of modernization, taking the opportunity during my stay to see the original copy of the Japan-Prussia Treaty of Amity and Commerce, which formed the basis of friendly relations and exchange activities between the two countries 150 years ago, and to visit the memorial building of Mori Ogai, a representative writer of Meiji Era Japan.

Bearing in mind future Japan-Germany relations, I look forward to meeting German university students who are interested in Japan and studying about it and visiting the Japanese International School of Berlin and a German elementary school attached to it.

I am also happy to have been invited to a symposium of the Japanese-German Center Berlin, an institution whose opening ceremony I attended years ago. The center has been the venue for the promotion of exchanges and cooperation between Japan and Germany in a variety of areas including academia and culture over a period of almost a quarter-century since its establishment. I have been told that at this symposium environmental and disaster prevention issues will be discussed. These topics, among others, are identified as areas of cooperation that Japan and Germany should promote for the wider benefit of the world without being limited to their bilateral relations in a narrow sense. It is my hope that the two countries, on the basis of present cooperative relations, will deepen and develop the relations further toward the future while reflecting back on the past.

Question 2
The invitation to Germany was addressed to both Your Imperial Highness the Crown Prince and Her Imperial Highness the Crown Princess. It was decided, however, that Crown Princess Masako will not accompany Your Imperial Highness. Since the earthquake, Crown Princess Masako has concerned herself with the people affected by the disaster by receiving the explanations of experts and by visiting disaster-stricken regions together with Your Imperial Highness. In the same period, she has continued to accompany Princess Aiko to school. Consequently, Your Imperial Highness will be alone on your visit. Please tell us how you feel about that, as well as how Crown Princess Masako is doing after the earthquake.
Answer 2

Masako has a strong desire to be with the people forced to live in difficult situations due to the earthquake and she is doing her utmost as far as her heath condition permits by, as you said, visiting evacuation centers in Tokyo and Saitama Prefecture to express her sympathy. She and I have also just recently visited Miyagi Prefecture for the same purpose. She is also accompanying Princess Aiko to school.

The situation being as it is, it was decided, in consultation with doctors and taking into comprehensive account matters such as distance of travel, period of stay, and events to attend in Germany, that I alone will visit the country. Masako and I are grateful for the invitation the government of Germany has kindly extended to both of us and I myself, as well as Masako, find it regrettable that she cannot make the trip this time.

Question from The Foreign Press in Japan

Question 3
Since the Great East Japan Earthquake hit this country on March 11, members of the Imperial Family, beginning with Their Majesties the Emperor and the Empress, have been enthusiastically engaged in activities such as visits to disaster-afflicted regions. For what reason did Your Imperial Highness decide to visit Germany at this juncture, when it is not so long since the occurrence of the disaster? What interests you in particular about the visit to Germany? Please also tell us what you think of the role and duties of the Imperial Family for the future.
Answer 3

The reasons for accepting the invitation to Germany and my thoughts about visiting the country are just as I explained earlier on. With regard to duties as a member of the Imperial Family, as I have indicated on various occasions I have engaged in them with sincerity while observing the things that Their Majesties the Emperor and the Empress do and I will continue doing so.

I consider that foreign visits as an official duty are important from the perspective of the promotion of friendly international relations, a role the Imperial Family is expected to play. As for the upcoming visit to Germany in particular, I intend to be of service in strengthening the bonds of friendship between our two countries by serving as an Honorary President in this year of the 150th anniversary of the commencement of Japan-Germany relations.

Related Question 1
This question overlaps the second question a bit. In a press conference organized in last February on the occasion of your birthday, Your Imperial Highness stated that official duties of Crown Princess Masako needed to be limited given that she was under medical treatment and also on the grounds that she was accompanying Princess Aiko to school. Regarding visits to disaster-affected regions for example, the visits are made when Princess Aiko's school is on vacation. Is this out of consideration for Princess Aiko's school attendance? Is it correct to assume that, for the time being, it will be difficult for Crown Princess Masako to accompany you on foreign visits such as the one you make this month?
Answer 1

Regarding your question about visits to disaster-affected regions, Masako, as I said, has a particularly strong feeling for the people who are leading difficult lives there and in fact she is eager to visit there and show her feeling of sympathy as much as possible. On the other hand, we need to take into consideration whether these regions are prepared to accept our visits. Our visits to regions affected by the earthquake are arranged on that basis, while making other considerations as well, and in consultation with prefectural governments and other local entities concerned, so that the timing of the visits will be appropriate. As for your question about visits to foreign countries, I repeat that various matters need to be taken into account when it comes to an official visit such as distance of travel and events to attend and other plans included in the itinerary. It is also important to respect the opinions of the doctors. I will think about future events while seeking advice from doctors and others concerned.

Related Question 2
I understand that the purpose of your visit to Germany involves the 150th anniversary of the commencement of relations between our two countries. Meanwhile, movements against nuclear power generation are getting stronger in Germany in the wake of the great earthquake in Japan. My assumption is that your visit to Germany, a visit by the Crown Prince of Japan, will necessarily be taken in Germany as having something to do with matters related to nuclear energy. We, Japanese, know that it is extremely difficult to seek an opinion about nuclear power generation from Your Imperial Highness, the Crown Prince of Japan. I do not think, however, that that is the case with the German people as well. Should you be asked for your views on nuclear power generation, how would you answer?
Answer 2

The government is making various considerations with regard to the issue of nuclear power generation. In a sense, the issue has become extremely politicized as well. My stance is that I should keep a certain distance from politics and as such I will refrain from making comments about the issue of nuclear power generation that has come to the surface at this time. What I would like to say about this matter is that I sincerely hope that the issue will be resolved as promptly as possible.

unofficial translation