Date:June 6, 2013
At the Residence
I am truly delighted and sincerely appreciative to receive an invitation from Spain to pay a visit in my capacity as Honorary President of the 400th Anniversary of Japan-Spain Relations. His Royal Highness the Prince of Asturias Felipe is acting as Honorary President in Spain for the 400th Anniversary of Japan-Spain Relations and I hope that together with Prince Felipe I can be of some small service in further promoting exchange between Japan and Spain, which share such a long history. I am also looking forward to being able to meet Their Majesties King Juan Carlos I and Queen Sofia and Their Royal Highnesses the Prince and Princess of Asturias. I have received an invitation to luncheon with Their Majesties and an invitation to dinner hosted by the Prince and Princess of Asturias. During my stay in Madrid I will be a guest at the Royal Palace of El Pardo, and I am truly grateful for the warm consideration being extended to me on my visit.
Looking back, it can be seen that Their Majesties The Emperor and Empress have over the course of many years deepened their exchanges with the Royal Family of Spain. This will be my sixth visit to Spain and I hope to further develop the close relationship with the Royal Family of Spain.
Not only do Japan's exchanges with Spain have a long history, they have also involved many people in a broad range of areas. Looking toward the future there are many possibilities to further expand and deepen exchanges, including those in the areas of economic, science and technology, culture, tourism and sports. Since my first visit to Spain in 1976 I have visited many cities and regions in the country and in every visit I have discovered something new and attractive derived from the diversity inherent in the country. Spain possesses a society and culture that is rich in diversity, including the influence of Islamic culture that is seen in various locations, as well as in the unique towns in many different regions. I hope that on this visit too, there will be opportunities for new encounters and exchanges with many people.
This year marks the 400th anniversary of the first official mission from Japan to Spain, which was the Keicho Mission, headed by Tsunenaga Hasekura. First of all, therefore, I would like to look back on the long history of exchange between the two countries. The first thing we should bring to mind is that in 1611, two years before the Mission was dispatched to Europe, a large earthquake and tsunami struck the Tohoku region in the same way as the disaster that occurred two years ago. At that time, Sebastián Vizcaíno, a Spanish explorer who was visiting Japan, saw the tsunami from his ship and after getting to land, he recorded in writing the scenes of devastation. I feel that in dispatching the Mission to Europe, the people of Tohoku at that time, including Masamune Date, the ruler of the region, not only resolved not to be beaten by the earthquake and tsunami disaster that had befallen them, but rather had the strong desire to realize trade and commerce with countries overseas in order to restore the fortunes of their dominion. I will also visit Seville and Coria del Rio in the Autonomous Community of Andalucía that have a connection with the Mission that visited there 400 years ago. Through my visit I hope to trace the footsteps of that history and seek to understand what thoughts the members of the Mission would have had when they departed from the port of Ishinomaki and when they first engaged in contact in Spain. Furthermore, some members of the Keicho Mission remained permanently in Spain and the people who are said to be their descendants have the family name "Japon," which means "Japan" in Spanish. These descendants are active in various areas and I recall having met one of them on a previous visit to Seville. I look forward to engaging in further exchanges with them. Incidentally, three years ago, when I stopped in Rome on my return journey from a visit to Kenya in Africa, I saw a fresco in the Quirinal Palace, the official residence of the President of Italy, in which were depicted both Tsunenaga Hasekura and Luis Sotelo, a Franciscan friar who was engaged in missionary work in Japan in the same period. At that time I had not expected this year to trace the footsteps of Tsunenaga Hasekura.
Secondly, beginning with a concert to commemorate the start of the year of exchange between Japan and Spain, through cooperation between the two countries and the voluntary participation of many people, a variety of exchange events are being planned. I hope that the momentum for exchange will be further heightened in the future. Between Japan and Spain in particular, in addition to cooperation at a political level, there are a broad range of exchanges, including those in business circles and academia, and I hope to see and feel personally the developments that are being made in such exchanges at the private level. In the field of economics, in conjunction with the year of exchange, the Japan-Spain Joint Economic Commission, composed of businessmen from both countries, will hold a meeting for the first time in 10 years since its suspension. At the opening ceremony I would like to talk about my own thoughts on the ways in which the future of Hispano-Japanese exchanges can be developed in a broad range of areas besides those of the economy. Furthermore, in the field of academia, cooperative relations have been deepened with the University of Salamanca, the oldest university in Spain. The Spanish-Japanese Cultural Center at the university, the establishment of which was given momentum by the visit of Their Majesties The Emperor and Empress in 1994, marks its 15th anniversary this year and serves as a center for exchanges. I hope to seek opinions from people involved with the university about the future ways for exchanges to be implemented. In the area of cultural exchanges, I will attend the opening of the Japanese art exhibition in Madrid and visit an exhibition on "Tsunenaga Hasekura and his era". Many Spanish researchers specializing in Japanese art have been involved in this exhibition and I look forward to talking with the people engaged in this field about the future for cultural exchanges.
Thirdly, although Japan and Spain are from different regions and cultural spheres, we share many things in common, starting with the fact that both have history and tradition. In the Autonomous Community of Galicia, I will visit the pilgrimage route of El Camino de Santiago in the ancient city of Santiago de Compostela, which is one of the three holy sites in Christianity. Last month I visited Kumano Kodo, which is the sister pilgrimage route to El Camino de Santiago, and is also designated as a World Heritage site just as El Camino de Santiago. Through the preservation of cultural heritage I feel that we can learn from each other how we can learn lessons from history and how we can pass on tradition and culture to the next generation. Also, in Salamanca, I am scheduled to attend a pipe organ performance. The pipe organ that will be played is one that was repaired by a Japanese organ maker. Its repair was facilitated after Their Majesties The Emperor and Empress visited there in 1985 when they were Crown Prince and Princess. I hope that exchanges such as these that seek to preserve and promote culture will continue in the future.
Fourthly, I believe that there are many things that Japan and Spain can learn from each other in the area of water, in which both countries have a high level of interest. In 2008 I visited the Expo Zaragoza 2008, held in Spain under the theme of "Water and Sustainable Development." Spain has a long history of water management, as epitomized by the Roman era Aqueduct of Segovia. From my position as a researcher in history, I too feel strongly the importance of learning from history and I spoke on this theme at the United Nations Special Thematic Session on Water and Disasters at the United Nations Headquarters in New York in March this year. During my visit to Spain this time I will visit the Canal de Isabel II Control Centre for Madrid's water supply system, which has been in operation since 1858. There I hope to learn about the latest water management systems based on Spain's experience and history in water management. Furthermore, there is a great deal of research also being implemented in the field of "water" at the University of Salamanca, which is home to the Research and Development Center of Water Technology (CIDTA). During my visit to the university I am scheduled to view the ancient documents relating to water that are held in the university archives and engage in exchanges of opinions with researchers and students who are working and studying in the area of water. Spain is famous for the story of the windmills of Don Quixote and is advanced in the efforts toward renewable energy such as wind power. I hope, therefore, that a wide range of exchange can be advanced between Japan and Spain in the fields of environment and energy, including "water".
Finally, at the time of the Great East Japan Earthquake, many people in Spain, starting with the Royal Family and the Government, expressed their condolences and messages of solidarity, offering assistance to Japan. Many local governments held gatherings and other events to express their support and solidarity with Japan and still more private companies and citizens provided encouragement and donations. Furthermore, in October 2011 the "Heroes of Fukushima," who were engaged in the initial response to the accident at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station were presented with the Prince of Asturias Award for Concord 2011 by His Royal Highness the Prince of Asturias Felipe, which is the most prestigious award in Spain. These warm acts of assistance and expressions of solidarity serve to strengthen the bonds between our countries and during my visit I will express appreciation for the assistance and reconfirm the bonds that we share. I look forward to engaging to that end also in exchanges with many Spanish people.
I believe that my visit to Spain is a very important one, taking place on the occasion of the 400th Anniversary of Japan-Spain Relations and also given the close relations between the Imperial Family and the Royal Family of Spain. At the same time the visit includes many official events, with a busy schedule during which I will visit five cities in the course of one week. Therefore, it was decided that I would make this visit alone.
When I look back over the last ten years, Masako has taken care of her health while she has been receiving medical treatment, and has engaged in public duties and private activities to the extent that this was possible. Against that backdrop I was relieved and immensely pleased that we were able together to visit the Kingdom of the Netherlands in order to attend the investiture ceremony of His Majesty King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands at the end of April this year. It goes without saying that the investiture of King Willem-Alexander was one of the most solemn and important ceremonies for the Netherlands. We were most grateful to receive the kind consideration of the Royal Family of the Netherlands, informing us that if Masako could attend the investiture and reception, it would be perfectly acceptable not to over-exert herself in attending other events.
The visit to the Netherlands was a big decision for Masako, who has not made an official overseas visit for quite some time, and although it was a big step for her, a decision was made in consultation with doctors and bearing in mind her physical condition, based on the view that attending such events would give her a chance to take a new step forward. Given that the visit was made while Masako had been subject to fluctuations in her health, Masako has been paying considerable attention to taking care of herself with a view to accomplishing the visit and attending the events there, and it is thanks to her own efforts that we were able to complete the visit without problems. I believe that being able to visit the Netherlands and attend the investiture ceremony has also given Masako a certain strength of confidence.
Above all, I am grateful that the relations of goodwill and trust that have been built over the course of many years between Their Majesties The Emperor and Empress and the Royal Family of the Netherlands led to the realization of the visit. I would also like to express my gratitude to Their Majesties for the consideration they have shown for Masako's health. I am also deeply appreciative of the encouragement we have received from many people.
In this way, although it is certainly the case that Masako's condition is improving, it does not mean that she will immediately be able to expand the scope of her activities. As her doctors have advised, I hope that she will take care of her health and will take time in engaging little by little in the activities she is able to do. I would once again like to express my heartfelt appreciation to the people of Japan for their warm and caring thoughts and hope that they will warmly continue to watch over us.
I have already spoken about the closeness of relations between the Royal Family of Spain and the Imperial Family, which have deepened over time through exchanges between Their Majesties The Emperor and Empress and Their Majesties King Juan Carlos I and Queen Sofia, and the frequent mutual visits by members of both families. I myself attended the wedding of Their Royal Highnesses the Prince and Princess of Asturias and Masako and I have welcomed Their Royal Highnesses to the Palace here, thus developing personal exchanges between us.
I believe that overseas visits are a very important part of official duties, from the perspective that one of the roles of the Imperial Family is to foster international goodwill. In particular, on the occasion of this visit, as the Honorary President of the year to commemorate the 400th Anniversary of Japan-Spain Relations, I hope to be able to contribute to making the bonds between Japan and Spain still stronger.
This will be my sixth visit to Spain and Masako herself has visited a certain region in northern Spain. Therefore, as this visit approaches, I have from time to time talked about the places I have seen in Spain to date and also about Spanish society and culture to the extent that my knowledge permits.
As I have already mentioned, I think that this visit to Spain will bring with it various new discoveries and I would like to share these with Masako upon my return to Japan.
The reason I think that the visit gave Masako a certain strength of confidence is because Masako herself has expressed her delight at having been able to make the visit to the Netherlands. Also, from the things that we have spoken about concerning the visit I have felt that it was truly a good experience for Masako and therefore gave her a certain strength of confidence.