Date:February 21, 2008
At the Residence
Looking back over the past year, there were truly a variety of events both at home and abroad.
With regard to events in Japan, those that left an impression on me were natural disasters such as the Niigata-ken Chuetsu-oki Earthquake and the Noto Peninsula Earthquake, as well as issues relating to the safety and security of the people, including food safety, pensions, and social disparities. In particular, food safety is a basic element of daily life and I sincerely hope that the issue will move toward resolution through the efforts of those involved.
As for overseas, the continuing instability in the Middle East, including the situations in Iraq and the Palestinian Territories, as well as the issue of conflicts in various regions are also a worry. In addition, the importance of global environmental issues is increasing around the world, as evidenced by the fact that Al Gore, former Vice President of the United States, and the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize last year.
One of the events that left a particular impression on me in the course of my official duties over the past year was my attendance at the 1st Asia-Pacific Water Summit. This was my first act in my capacity as Honorary President of the United Nations Secretary-General's Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation since being appointed by the Secretary-General of the United Nations. Water issues are one of the important challenges facing the world in terms of environmental issues, including global warming, and natural resources. In my position as Honorary President I will continue seeking, this year, to take part in a variety of activities pertaining to water issues.
Another event that left an impression on me was my attendance as Honorary President at the International Skills Festival for All, Japan 2007, which was held in November in Shizuoka Prefecture. This festival was of extremely deep significance as it represented the first simultaneous holding of two events that both have a long tradition; one being the World Skills Competition, in which young people from around the world compete in various skills, and the other being the International Abilympics, in which persons with disabilities compete in various skills. I was deeply impressed to see all the young people who had gathered from various countries around the world, regardless of whether they were disabled or not, taking part so enthusiastically and with such dedication to creating various objects. Amidst the remarkable scientific and technological advancement we see today, I once again realized the tremendous importance of having the young generation support the art of crafting in Japan.
In terms of international exchange, my visit to Mongolia in July last year left a strong impression on me. I hope that friendly relations between Japan and Mongolia will further develop in the future in a variety of fields.
As to the question regarding my health, last year I was hospitalized for an operation to remove a polyp from my duodenum. I made a full recovery and am now engaged in all my official duties as before. I am truly appreciative of the dedicated treatment I received from the doctors and nurses involved in my short stay at the hospital. The operation also provided me with an opportunity to experience advanced medical treatment using endoscopy.
With regard to my efforts to maintain good health, I pay due attention to various aspects of my lifestyle. I think it is important for maintenance of health to take care with the foods that I eat as a matter of course, and also to engage in appropriate exercise. As for my exercise regimen, I play tennis or go jogging on a daily basis. Jogging especially provides good exercise in a short period of time and is something that can be easily done, provided that it does not rain or snow. In one jog I generally do two or three circuits inside the grounds of the Akasaka Estate, and last month I jogged over 100km.
Seeing the tremendous number of participants in the Tokyo Marathon held on February 17, and seeing also the large numbers of runners in the vicinity of the Imperial Palace, I understand well that many people in Japan enjoy running or jogging. As long as you do not overdo it, I think jogging can be very useful for maintaining good health. Of course, tennis is also essential for maintaining my health, as are mountain climbing and skiing, although the opportunities I have to engage in these two activities are few.
With regard to the health of Their Majesties The Emperor and Empress, it is my constant and sincere wish that Their Majesties can live their lives in good health and spirits. As The Crown Prince, I am always prepared to offer my assistance to His Majesty, should the need arise, and I am always mindful to make every effort to provide whatever assistance would give His Majesty the greatest support.
When I think that we will already be celebrating the 15th anniversary of our marriage, I am struck by how quickly the time has passed. At the time of our 10th anniversary, Princess Masako and I spoke in detail of our thoughts and if I were to focus on the five years that have passed since then, clearly the most significant thing that would come to mind has been the growth of our daughter Princess Aiko and the many enjoyable and happy times that the three of us have shared. Another significant event has been the illness that has afflicted Princess Masako and her ongoing recovery. As far as Princess Masako's current condition is concerned, as she herself stated on the occasion of her birthday last year, and as was elaborated on by the Doctors to the Crown Prince's Household, she is gradually moving in the direction of improvement, but still does require medical care. Princess Masako continues to experience ups and downs in her physical state, but she has devised various ways to cope with an expanding range of activities in both her public and private lives. Moreover, little by little, she is engaging more frequently in the official duties. It does seem to me that she is able to recover from the fatigue she experiences after carrying out her official duties more quickly than before. Since there are times when she pushes herself a bit too far and winds up fatigued, she listens carefully to the guidance of her doctors that she needs to assess her activities carefully as she strives to expand the range of activities. I believe she will resume her official duties one by one as she steadily returns to her previous state. Currently the position of her doctors is that for the treatment it is essential that she expands the range of her activities in a manner that places a limited burden on her as she focuses on heart-to-heart exchanges in both the performance of her official duties and in her private life. As such, I would like to call upon everyone to continue to watch over her warmly with a view to the long term. Furthermore, as I stated at the time of our 10th wedding anniversary, Princess Masako supports me in many ways, and going forward, I will continue to strive as well to be supportive of her.
Princess Aiko is approaching the end of her time at kindergarten where she has been for these past two years. It seems to me that during these two years, she has grown remarkably both in body and mind. Although the kindergarten was Princess Aiko's first experience of a group activity, under the warm guidance of the teachers she quickly found herself completely at ease with life in kindergarten and made many friends, and truly enjoys being there each day. During these kindergarten years, there have been many opportunities for parents to participate in events with the children, such as observing classwork and sporting events, and each and every one of those have been enjoyable for us. In addition, outside of the time that Princess Aiko spends at kindergarten, she enjoys her music and gymnastics lessons with the friends she knew before entering kindergarten. At these times as well, I feel that I can see how much she has grown.
During this past year, Princess Aiko has taken an interest in kanji characters and she is now able to write many kanji herself. She seems to be particularly interested in writing the names of people, and in fact, knows how to write some rather difficult characters. In her playtime she seems to enjoy playing house and all kinds of other pretend games. She regularly showers affection on her pet dogs and turtles, and also seems to like insects, and shows compassion for all living things. Furthermore, she likes singing songs and is showing an interest in the violin and the piano. On occasions such as birthdays, she enjoys giving presents she handcrafted herself to Their Majesties The Emperor and Empress, and to us. I also recall that once when Princess Aiko and I were washing our hands, I left the water running while I was soaping my hands and Princess Aiko reminded me to turn off the water.
From April of this year she will be attending Gakushuin Elementary School and I hope that she will cheerfully begin her new life in that new environment. I am indeed grateful to everyone who has compassionately looked out for Princess Aiko and allowed her to develop as she has.
As I have said in the past regarding this matter, fundamental to all official duties is the ideal role of the Imperial Family, which is to "assist His Majesty The Emperor, hope for the happiness of the people of Japan and try to share the joys and sorrows of the people." As I watch His Majesty The Emperor carry out his official duties, I see naturally those official duties that involve the performance of matters of State, in addition to which I notice that there are many ceremonies and official duties that take place within the Imperial Palace that are not seen from outside, in which great importance is placed upon his being perceived as impartial in his position as The Emperor of Japan.
When I consider the age of His Majesty The Emperor, I do think that it is important to adjust his official duties taking account of the overall amount of work that His Majesty The Emperor is now performing. For my part, I believe that those who support His Majesty The Emperor must give further thought to creating opportunities for His Majesty to rest and enjoy life at a slower pace. I believe that what is important in this regard is for those who support His Majesty The Emperor to continue to closely consult with him and to arrange things in a way that is in accordance with the wishes of His Majesty.
As I said at the outset, it is clear that the environment is a matter of common concern to the entire world. The issue of water, in that context, is one of the most important matters that the entire international community must take a serious approach to, regardless of whether a nation is advanced or developing. From my perspective as Honorary President of the United Nations Secretary-General's Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation, I strive to ask myself what it is that I can do. The issue of water, again, is one of the important challenges that the world faces in tackling environmental issues, including global warming, and the issue of natural resources. As Honorary President, I will continue to be involved in a wide range of activities related to the issues of water and sanitation this year, and I intend to deepen my understanding on these matters. In this light, my attendance last December at the 1st Asia-Pacific Water Summit was an excellent opportunity for me to learn about the issue of water. At the Summit, I learned more about things such as the fact that melting of glaciers in the Himalayas is in fact resulting in flood damage afflicting the people downstream from those glaciers, and that rising sea levels are causing the land to sink in Pacific island nations such as Tuvalu and are resulting in salination of drinking water in wells. According to reports compiled by the United Nations, 1.1 billion people around the world live without safe drinking water and approximately 60% of those reside in the Asia-Pacific region. Moreover, 2.6 billion people around the world lack toilets and other sanitation facilities, with 70% of them living in the Asia-Pacific region. Facing such a reality, I feel that it truly is important for us to gather all of our wisdom and work together to identify ways to counter these situations.
For my own part, I will carry on with my research into the history of transportation by water and the way that the Japanese people have been involved with water, and in addition I intend to visit facilities and locations that are related to water and water management here in Japan. Furthermore, as Honorary President of the United Nations Secretary-General's Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation, I will continue to be concerned with its activities and will pay close attention to a wide range of activities involving the issue of water.
Their Majesties' consideration for Princess Aiko is always encouraging and I am grateful for their consideration. As for the frequency of our visits to the Imperial Residence, I intend to do the best I can. This is a private family matter and I would like to refrain from elaborating on it any further.
As I have just mentioned, these are indeed internal family matters and therefore I wish to refrain from commenting on them in this kind of public setting.