Press Conference on the occasion of His Imperial Highness the Crown Prince's Birthday (2009)

Press Conference by His Imperial Highness The Crown Prince on the Occasion of His Birthday

Press Conference by His Imperial Highness The Crown Prince on the Occasion of His Birthday(2009)

Date:February 20, 2009

At the Temporary Residence

Question 1
There are a number of issues at the moment, including the recession brought about by the global financial crisis. As Your Imperial Highness looks back over the past year, please share with us the course of events, including activities you engaged in, that left a particular impression on you.
Answer 1

This has been another eventful year. On a positive note, we saw remarkable achievements by Japanese athletes at the Beijing Olympic Games. We also witnessed Nobel Prizes awarded to Japanese scientists. I was impressed by these events as testimonies to various potential capacities with which we are each endowed.

On the other hand, however, we saw matters of concern as well. In particular, the global economic crisis, triggered by the US financial crisis, has had a serious impact on Japan's economy, its society, and the daily lives of the people. It is my sincere hope that in the midst of this situation, the people of Japan will join hands and gather together their common wisdom for a prompt recovery.

In addition, there have been various incidents that threatened the safety of our daily lives, including food issues. We have seen developments of concern in some regions of the world, including the situation in the Gaza Strip in the Middle East, as well as in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The significant damage caused by natural disasters such as the Iwate-Miyagi Nairiku Earthquake was heartrending. The Great Earthquake in Sichuan Province, China, and the cyclone that hit Myanmar also inflicted great damage. Australia is still fighting the devastating wildfires. I would like once again to express my deep sympathy for all those who lost their lives in these disasters.

As for my activities, I visited a number of local regions and participated in various events at home. Overseas, I visited Brazil, Spain, Tonga, and Viet Nam, and in each of these countries I sought to promote mutual understanding and strengthen goodwill and friendship with Japan. Moreover, assuming the post of the Honorary President of the United Nations Secretary-General's Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation, I attended among other events a meeting of the Advisory Board and the international exposition on the theme of water issues held in Zaragoza, Spain. I sincerely hope that water issues in the world will move in a positive direction, enriching people's lives.

Question 2
Last year, His Majesty The Emperor suffered from arrhythmia and an inflammation of the stomach and duodenum, and some of his official duties were cancelled. In his remarks, the Grand Steward of the Imperial Household Agency Shingo Haketa raised "the issue of the imperial line," "the health management of Their Imperial Highnesses," and "views attributing Princess Masako's illness to the Imperial Family," as the causes of the distress and anguish of His Majesty. In the same remarks, the Grand Steward stated that he was "still waiting for a concrete proposal" about the "new official duties" that Your Imperial Highness had mentioned previously. Your Imperial Highness must be concerned about His Majesty's condition. Could you tell us frankly of your feelings? Please also share with us, in concrete terms, your thoughts on the Grand Steward's remarks.
Answer 2

I have been greatly concerned by His Majesty The Emperor's ill health last year. I continue to pray from the depths of my heart that His Majesty will take good care of himself and continues to enjoy good health.

I sincerely hope that His Majesty's distress will be reduced. To that end, we intend to do all that we can.

In particular, this year, which is truly a milestone year marking the 20th anniversary of His Majesty's Accession to the Throne and the 50th anniversary of Their Majesties' marriage, I am reminded most keenly of the importance of my duties as Crown Prince to assist the Emperor. From each and all of Their Majesties' activities I have learned a great deal. For example, Their Majesties have involved themselves in the National Sports Games for the Disabled from the first time the Games were held while they were still Crown Prince and Princess, and this movement has blossomed into one that now includes the intellectually disadvantaged, to become a sports event for all disabled people. This is something that is strongly ingrained in my mind. In addition, Their Majesties' attendance at the National Tree-caring Festivals which are held after National Arbor Day festivities, in order to watch over the growth of the trees, and Their Majesties' meetings with the Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers are activities that Their Majesties initiated as new official duties when they were Crown Prince and Princess and have nurtured along the way.

With regard to my previous statement about "new official duties," my intention was in no way to negate the official duties that have been performed to date. Naturally, new ideas about the needs for official duties emerge in accordance with the changing times. My intention was to point out those new official duties. If I were to give an example from among the work I am currently involved in, there are efforts to address various water issues, as I mentioned earlier, which have become a significant challenge for the international community. Among these efforts, I have assumed the post of Honorary President of the United Nations Secretary-General's Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation -- as the first member of the Imperial Family to assume a post of honorary president of a United Nations' body -- and have been engaging in activities to help deepen people's understanding of the importance of this issue, including addressing audiences at home and abroad. I am also scheduled to attend the Fifth World Water Forum in Istanbul, Turkey, this March, where I will deliver an address. I believe that the resolution of water issues will lead to world peace, through reducing poverty and eliminating regional conflicts over water. I have utilized my own field of history and speaking from a largely historical perspective, have broadly introduced the various kinds of knowledge and innovations relating to water that the people of countries or regions have nurtured to date, through which I have sought to encourage the people of various countries and regions to think about their interactions with water in the future.

Question 3
Her Imperial Highness The Crown Princess has now entered her sixth year of convalescence. Last year, Her Imperial Highness attended a State Welcoming Ceremony, and at the beginning of this year attended all of the appearances by the Imperial Family on the day of New Year Greetings. Her Imperial Highness has also represented Her Majesty The Empress at the Koreiden no Gi ceremony and has thus performed a number of official duties and rites of the imperial court. The doctors to the Crown Prince's Household have indicated that "It is difficult to predict specifically the speed at which the stress levels of Her Imperial Highness will decrease," demonstrating that Her Imperial Highness's health continues to be subject to a series of ups and downs. Could Your Imperial Highness share with us your feelings on the current status of Her Imperial Highness' health and of her own thoughts as you hear them, and give us an idea of when she will return to her official duties?
Answer 3

Both Princess Masako and I are delighted that she, while facing the ups and downs in terms of her health and continuing medical care, has been able to engage in official duties which she had not been able to previously. These include attending all the New Year Greetings at the Imperial Palace and representing Her Majesty The Empress at a rite, as you mentioned in your question. I believe this reflects Princess Masako's understanding of the importance of official duties and rites, and also the utmost efforts she has made to engage in them as far as her health conditions permit. At the same time, doctors, bearing in mind Princess Masako's tendency to attempt too much and to try too hard when in good heath, have expressed the opinion that careful attention must be paid to ensure that the recovery is not reversed as a result of over-exertion; that it is desirable to attach importance also to parenting and works for the Crown Prince's Household as well as to such activities that will be part of her lifework; and that it is necessary to give sufficient consideration to the balance between those activities and official duties. Therefore, I believe, at this moment, that the timing of her return to official duties will be considered, as has always been the case, on an individual basis and without haste, in consideration of her health at the time and in consultation with doctors. I myself will continue supporting Princess Masako's process of recovery.

Question 4
Princess Aiko will enter the second grade at Gakushuin Primary School this April. At an athletic meet last autumn, we were able to witness her sound growth as she participated in a sprint and a relay. Please share with us any episode from Princess Aiko's daily activities in the past year, as well as the future educational principles envisioned by Your Imperial Highnesses, and any exchanges between the families of Your Imperial Highness and His Imperial Highness Prince Akishino since your family moved to the temporary Residence.
Answer 4

The past year has brought about major changes to Princess Aiko's living environment, such as graduation from kindergarten, entry to primary school, and the move to the temporary Residence. She has grown accustomed to the primary school and is enjoying her school life. It makes me feel that she is growing remarkably, both mentally and physically. Skipping rope, which she learned at the gymnastics class at school, has become one of Princess Aiko's favorite after-school pastimes. She seems to practice it almost every day at home in the temporary Residence. Sometimes I join in her practice. Recently she told me happily that she had mastered double jumps.

Although I am not sure whether I can call it our future educational principles, we find it very important to nurture the spirit of sincerity and a sense of caring about others. Furthermore, we hope that she will by all means enjoy studying various subjects on her own, and discovering answers. Even at times when she does not reach tangible answers, we hope she will find joy in the process of working out answers. Nowadays, she seems to have made friends with many more children of her age. In addition, she also seems to have opportunities to play with children older than she is and is cared for by them, while she attends the Gakushuin Primary School, an institution which cherishes interaction among its pupils in different grades.

Moreover, we hope that she will have various experiences to widen her humanistic perspectives. To this end, we hope to continue to provide her with so-called social experiences outside the Akasaka Estate and school. We would appreciate it if more privacy could be allowed to us.

Thankfully, our residence has become closer to that of Prince Akishino's family. Sometimes the three of us take walks to visit them. Also, in the past when Princess Aiko was playing inside the Akasaka Estate, Princess Mako and Princess Kako would come over and say hello, and would play together. On one occasion, one morning when she was going to school, Princess Aiko found my brother in the Akasaka Estate more quickly than we could, and she happily told us that "moustache uncle" was there. She seems greatly looking forward to playing again with her cousins in Prince Akishino's family.

The other day, Mari, our dog that Princess Aiko loved so much, died. Mari had always been around since Princess Aiko's birth and we treated Mari just like a family member. Although Princess Aiko was at first very sad over the loss of Mari, she fortunately seemed to be able to contain her feelings relatively quickly, much to our relief. While cherishing the memories of those days she spent with Mari, she is now playing with our other dog Pippi, and taking care of it. Separation from one's beloved animal is a very sad experience. I nevertheless believe that getting over this is another valuable experience for children as they grow up.

Question 5
This year is a milestone year, marking the 20th anniversary of His Majesty The Emperor's Accession to the Throne, as well as the 50th anniversary of the marriage of Their Majesties The Emperor and The Empress. In these 20 years, Their Majesties The Emperor and The Empress have paid heartfelt attention to socially vulnerable people, through visits to disaster-struck areas and facilities for the elderly and persons with disabilities. Their Majesties have also expressed their strong feelings for peace, constantly praying for the repose of the souls of the war dead as Their Majesties visited many sites where fierce battles took place during the last war. Please tell us any impressions you have as Crown Prince of the path taken by Their Majesties to date, including references to any episodes that may come to mind. Now, the Imperial Household Agency is taking the initiative to ease the burdens laid on His Majesty in his official duties. In consideration of His Majesty's current health conditions and age, how do you envisage the modalities of His Majesty's official duties?
Answer 5

As I mentioned earlier, I have always felt deep respect for the path taken by Their Majesties to date, and I have learned a great deal from each one of Their Majesties' activities. Some of these activities started when Their Majesties were Crown Prince and Princess, such as receiving the Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers and the Junior Reporters from Okinawa in audience, which I inherited.

Concerning Their Majesties' prayer for the repose of the souls of those who lost their lives in the last war and their strong feelings for peace, two years ago, when I visited Mongolia, what left a strong impression on me was my visit to the monument dedicated to those who died while detained in Mongolia. At that time I reflected on the hardships experienced by all those who were detained in Siberia.

As to Their Majesties' official duties in the future, specific steps for review have just recently been announced. I hope that Their Majesties' burdens will be reduced accordingly. I believe it is important to pay heed to Their Majesties' health and age in considering their official duties and to avoid excessive burdens on them. At the same time, those who support His Majesty, including myself, need to give sufficient consideration, respecting the feelings of His Majesty, who sincerely cherishes the duties of Emperor. On that basis, I would like to give as much support as I can.

Related Question 1
This relates to question 2. Grand Steward Haketa mentioned the issue of the imperial line and Your Imperial Highnesses' health management in the context of causes of the distress and anguish of His Majesty The Emperor. Please share with us Your Imperial Highness's thoughts on the issue of the imperial line.
Answer 1

I will refrain from making comments on the issue of the imperial line.

Grand Steward Haketa took a similar position when he said it is advisable that comments not be made on the issue of the imperial line, but if we may, could you, as the person directly related to the issue, please tell us your frank feelings?

My frank feeling is that I should refrain from speaking on an issue of this kind.

Related Question 2
In your answer to question 3 on Her Imperial Highness's health, you stated that you wish to consider her lifework together with parenting and works for the Crown Prince's Household. On previous occasions, you expressed the wish to be warmly attentive to children in unfortunate circumstances, or something similar to that. What are your current views on this?
Answer 2

I believe that taking advantage of occasions such as attending seminars of the United Nations University is very beneficial in considering her future lifework. But as she still requires medical care, she might attend seminars occasionally.

Princess Masako also seems to be contemplating the welfare issue that you just mentioned.

Do you wish such occasions, for example, for these to be steps taken for the resumption of Her Imperial Highness's official duties?

Yes. Finding a lifework -- in my case, I wish to make water issues my mission -- is, I believe, a source of great encouragement as we engage in other official duties. As such, although Princess Masako still requires medical care, I believe her finding some similar interest will lead in a good direction for her recovery from illness.

Related Question 3
Your Imperial Highness mentioned that Her Imperial Highness has a tendency to push herself too far and that careful attention must be paid so as not to reverse recovery. Because of the nature of Her Imperial Highness's illness, it is difficult for us to understand her situation. If it is not too intrusive to ask, I believe it would be easier to understand the situation if Your Imperial Highness could elaborate further Her Imperial Highness's tendency to push herself too far, for example, by giving us an explanation of a specific situation that affects or worsens her condition.
Answer 3

Whenever Princess Masako takes part in an official duty, she puts all of her energy towards it, as high expectations are placed on her. Doctors recommend that she take part in other activities as well, however, in a manner of speaking, she sacrifices these to take part in official duties. There are also days of preparation involved. It takes time to recover from the fatigue of these official duties. So the doctors have advised us not to expect her to be able to take on the next official duty just because she was able to take part in something new, as it would be too mentally stressful. I believe that whether or not Princess Masako will take part in official duties must be determined on a case-by-case basis, as we have been doing, in consultation with doctors and taking into account her health at the time.

Regarding the previous question, I fully recognize that the issue of the imperial line is an important issue.

unofficial translation