Press Conference on the Occasion of the Birthday of His Imperial Highness Prince Akishino (2003)

Press Conference by Their Imperial Highnesses Prince and Princess Akishino on the Occasion of the Birthday of His Imperial Highness Prince Akishino (2003)

Press Conference by Their Imperial Highnesses Prince and Princess Akishino on the Occasion of the Birthday of His Imperial Highness Prince Akishino (2003)

Date:November 20, 2003

Prince Akishino Residence

Question 1
I would like to address the first question to Your Imperial Highness Prince Akishino. This year Your Imperial Highness has engaged in various public duties, including the first official visit by a member of the Imperial Family to the Pacific island countries of Tonga, Fiji, and Samoa. Looking back over the year, please tell us the events both in Japan and overseas, as well as in your personal life and public duties, that stand out in your memory.
Response by His Imperial Highness Prince Akishino

A few of the events which particularly stand out for me are, first of all, the climate which has been very irregular. In particular, here in Japan the rice harvest was poor because of the cool summer, while Europe was struck by a scorching heat wave. In addition, there was a series of earthquakes in southern Sanriku, northern Miyagi prefecture, and off the coast of Tokachi.

Overseas, the extremely large number of terrorist incidents recently has been very striking indeed. The office of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Baghdad became a target of terrorism, and along with the International Red Cross office in Basra was temporarily closed. I think it is most regrettable that they cannot carry out their humanitarian assistance activities.

Besides these incidents, other notable events that I can think of include the death of Kin, the last Japanese crested ibis, in October. This event remains strongly in my memory because it happened just after a commemorative symposium on September 23 of this year, sponsored by a research institute of which I am the president (Yamashina Institute for Ornithology), featuring a person who is engaged in research on the Japanese crested ibis and who received this year's Yamashina Yoshimaro Award (given to people who contribute to ornithology.)

On the bright side, Japanese athletes have been doing well in the world of sports. People like Kosuke Kitajima in swimming and Ai Sugiyama in tennis have been achieving wonderful results.

And then there is Bunraku, which has been designated as a World Heritage by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization. This, I think, follows Noh and Kyogen...(Confers with Her Imperial Highness Princess Akishino.)

Response by His Imperial Highness Princess Akishino

Following Noh, which received designation the year before last.

Response by His Imperial Highness Prince Akishino

Yes, following Noh, which received designation the year before last. This was wonderful news. Just by chance, a little after the announcement, we had the opportunity to watch Bunraku at the National Bunraku Theater in Osaka. We enjoyed the performance very much.

Another thing, you mentioned official visits overseas just now, in September and October we visited Fiji, Tonga, and Samoa. There is increasing interest in the Pacific region and I think that it was a very good thing for us to make the first official visit to this region by members of the Japanese Imperial Family. In addition, I was delighted to again have the opportunity to meet His Majesty the King of Tonga, who has visited Japan on several occasions, and also His Highness the Head of the State of Samoa.

Furthermore, as was mentioned in the newspapers this morning (November 20), a new species of whale has been discovered for the first time in 90 years. I think this is an extremely good example of the fact that however large something might be, there is still a lot that we do not know.

Question 2
I would like to direct this question to both of Your Imperial Highnesses. This summer your family paid a visit to Thailand. It was the first overseas trip for HIH Princess Mako and HIH Princess Kako, and I know that it was a valuable experience to come into direct contact with foreign culture. What were your reasons for taking your children to Thailand? And what do you feel was the significance for your children and changes in them? Also, did HIH Princess Mako or HIH Princess Kako talk about their impressions of the trip?
Response by His Imperial Highness Prince Akishino

I have frequently had the opportunity to meet and talk with members of the Thai Royal Family. Their Majesties The King and Queen of Thailand have shown much interest in our children and suggested that at some time we should bring them with us. We decided we would accept this invitation. Another thing was that I thought it would be very good for them to go abroad and come into contact with a culture that is different from Japan's. By doing so, I hoped that they would be able to experience these differences. At the same time, I hoped that they would notice that Japan and Thailand have many similarities and share many common points, because they are both Asian countries. In this way, I hoped that the trip would also be an opportunity for them to gain a further understanding of Japanese culture. (Turns to HIH Princess Akishino.)

Response by His Imperial Highness Princess Akishino

As our two daughters have grown, they have begun to think about Japan and other countries and the people who live there. In these circumstances, making domestic and overseas trips and coming into contact with people's lives and culture leads our daughters to a deeper understanding of our own country. And I believe that it is important to have that experience at a young age.

So for the reasons that HIH Prince Akishino just explained, this summer we visited Thailand as a family, and we received a warm welcome wherever we went. During our stay, our daughters had several valuable experiences, and I am most grateful for the fact that we were all able to have a meaningful time there.

Our stay for a few days in Ubon Ratchathani, in the northeast of Thailand, was a very memorable occasion. Our daughters attended the ceremony in which HIH Prince Akishino was awarded honorary doctorates and they were very much impressed by the occasion. After the ceremony, we went to a room where there were many water tanks. Together with HIH Prince Akishino, our two daughters listened keenly to explanations about fish. They also asked questions about each of the fish and the way they were swimming, and discussed their colors and shapes. They seemed to be having a very enjoyable time. The Mekong River and its tributary, Mun River, where HIH Prince Akishino did research on fish, were both located near by. I think it was very significant that our daughters were able to get a close view of these rivers, which support the lives of so many people. Also, our daughters enjoyed touring Pha Team National Park, where there are wall paintings depicting animals and the lives of people about 3000 years ago. It was also an excellent chance for them to come into contact with the daily lives of people. We went out early one morning to a bustling market, where we saw fresh fish, vegetables, and fruits.

Furthermore, we visited an elementary school in Bangkok, where our daughters participated in a home economics class and made traditional cakes and floral decorations with children of their own age. They also learned about Thai history in Sukhothai and Srisatchanaalai, and came into contact with a wide range of plants and animals amid the abundant nature of Khao Yai National Park. It was a very memorable trip indeed.

Response by His Imperial Highness Prince Akishino

There are of course plenty of opportunities to come into contact with a variety of things through books and pictures. But speaking from my own experience, it is extremely important to actually see things first-hand. In addition, I think that meeting and talking with Their Majesties the King and Queen of Thailand, HRH Princess Sirindhorn,and other members of the Thai Royal Family was also a very important experience for our children. Did they say anything about their impressions? (Asks HIH Princess Akishino.)

Response by His Imperial Highness Princess Akishino

About the elementary school, which I just mentioned.

Response by His Imperial Highness Prince Akishino

They both like making things, so they very much enjoyed the experience at the elementary school.

Question 3
This question is for HIH Prince Akishino. Ten months have passed since His Majesty the Emperor underwent an operation for prostrate cancer. During this period, how has Your Imperial Highness dealt with the situation, and in what ways have you supported His Majesty? Also, in what ways will you continue to support His Majesty in the future?
Response by His Imperial Highness Prince Akishino

Medicine has made enormous progress in modern times. It is truly a rapidly advancing world. Even in times like these, however, the sound of the word "cancer" can still be a shock. Therefore, we were extremely concerned when we heard that His Majesty's illness was cancer. Your question was about how I have supported him and how I will support him in the future. Well, I cannot directly support him by myself, but I realized that after the operation he would often feel lonely and forlorn, so as much as possible I made an effort to be by his side and talk with him about various subjects. Also, as I have said in press conferences before, the role of the Imperial Family is to meet the expectations of the people through our public duties and to assist His Majesty the Emperor. That is our most important role. In order to do that, I think that it is important to emphasize communication with His Majesty and to facilitate smooth understanding. I intend to continue doing so in the future as well. One more thing, listening to various stories on such occasions itself is important for me.

Question 4
This question is for both of Your Imperial Highnesses. Please tell us about any new projects that you have been involved recently, or that you would like to devote yourselves in your researches or hobbies.
Response by His Imperial Highness Prince Akishino

Just now we talked about our visit to Thailand last summer. There were several reasons for the visit. For a long time now I have been studying domestic chickens and their wild ancestors. I wanted to do some multi-faceted research on chickens from the point of biology, ethnology, linguistics, geography, etc. with Thai researchers. In other words, I would like to conduct joint research. When we went to Thailand, I had several opportunities for related discussions, and most probably the joint work will continue for several years.

Another thing, and I suppose this really is something new, is a project to gather knowledge concerning living creatures, nature, and environment. All around Japan and all around the world, there is knowledge but still little is known. In May of this year, a society called the Ikimono Bunkashi Gakkai (The Society of Biosophia Studies) was founded with the aim of gathering information related to living creatures and understanding living creatures from a wide perspective. I am one of the founders of the society. The society held a conference in Toba, Mie Prefecture, on November 8 and 9. The society intends that through its researches, studies and activities, we will once again be able to probe further the importance of nature, living creatures, and the environment. That's just about all on my part.

Response by His Imperial Highness Princess Akishino

On the subject of what I have involved myself with my study and what I would like to continue to do in the future, I would like to enhance my understanding of folk music and continue to devote my time at a leisurely pace on my research which I have done in the past.

Question 5
This question is for both of Your Imperial Highnesses. Next spring HIH Princess Mako will advance to junior high, and HIH Princess Kako will soon be nine years old. In general terms, they are both approaching adolescence. As a father and as a mother, what care are you taking in their upbringing? Also, in last year's press conference we asked whether there was going to be a brother or a sister for Their Imperial Highnesses Princesses Mako and Kako, and Your Imperial Highness Prince Akishino replied that "we will discuss the future together." Please tell us your thoughts about having a third child.
Response by His Imperial Highness Prince Akishino

When I hear you talk about our daughters reaching adolescence, I cannot help but be surprised that they are indeed reaching that age. As far as I am concerned, as I have said before, I hope that they will develop and expand their interests in the fields in which they are most interested. I have said this before, too, but as they will reach higher grades in school, the later they are in returning home. We usually only have time for talking in the evening, so I want to create as many opportunities as possible to talk together at that time about various things. including their school life, and as much as possible I want to make time to listen when they initiate the conversation. That is what I am endeavoring to do.

As for a third child, the situation is the same as last year, so I have nothing new to say. (Turns to HIH Princess Akishino.)

Response by His Imperial Highness Princess Akishino

As HIH Prince Akishino said, I also feel surprised that our daughters have already reached that age and cannot help looking back on their growth.

At the beginning of this month, I went with my daughter (HIH Princess Mako) to Toba for the conference of the Ikimono Bunkashi Gakkai, which HIH Prince Akishio just spoke about. We listened to the commemorative lecture at an open symposium, and in Kuzaki we watched women shell divers and visited an abalone processing plant. My daughter was able to experience the culture of the sea, which she is not usually able to do, and she enjoyed herself very much.

Also, as I said earlier, when we visited Thailand last summer, both of our daughters listened very enthusiastically to the explanations when we went to various historical sites and museums. They also watched Thai dance and music with great interest. In Japan, I make an effort to go with them to museums and art galleries and I also enjoy sports with them. I think that it has become possible for us to share interests and hobbies together. At the same time, our daughters each have their own interests, which make me keenly aware of their growth as individuals.

In the spring of next year, our elder daughter, Mako, will move up from primary school to junior high school. I hope that she will be able to go to school every day carrying her hopes with her. Our younger daughter, Kako, will enter the fourth grade and the number of lessons will increase. I hope that she will be able to continue leading a fulfilling life. From now on also, as a parent, I want to take care to place importance on the time that we spend together as a family and on my daughters' respective interests, hobbies, feelings, and thoughts so that they grow up healthy in both mind and body.

Related Question 1
This question is for both of Your Imperial Highnesses. Following the illness of His Majesty the Emperor and the sudden passing last year of HIH Prince Takamado, we are most concerned about the health care of members of the Imperial Family. Please tell us your thoughts about your own health care and maintenance. What measures are you taking now, and what measures would you like to take in the future? And in what ways are you thinking about each other's health care?
Response by His Imperial Highness Prince Akishino

I believe that members of the Imperial Family must always be careful about maintaining their health. I myself am not such a strong person, but, for example, I make sure that I have a medical check-up every year. Other than that, you know, I almost always move around by car. When I leave the building, the car is waiting to take me to my destination. So I lose the habit of walking. About three or four years ago, I became acutely aware that I was not getting nearly enough exercise; so I now make an effort to walk a reasonable distance every day.

As for the question about what I do for my wife, I recommended that she come with me to the hospital for a medical examination once a year. At first she was rather reluctant.

Response by His Imperial Highness Princess Akishino

As HIH Prince Akishino just said, since I was relatively healthy before and hardly ever caught heavy colds, I did not have so much interest in medical check-ups. But the older I get, the easier it has become to catch colds. One time, when I wasn't feeling well for a long time, HIH Prince Akishino showed me his kind consideration to visit a doctor with him and since that time on it has become a routine for me to have medical check-ups with him regularly.

As for what I can do, I would like to take care so that HIH Prince Akishino and our family can lead a healthy life in general, including a balanced diet.

Response by His Imperial Highness Prince Akishino

When you become an adult, as the years go by, the probability of illness does not decline; it only gets higher. So if I feel a little unwell, I make an effort to see the doctor as quickly as possible.

Related Question 2
Just now, when Your Imperial Highness spoke about helping His Majesty the Emperor, you said that you created the opportunity to be by his side and talk about various subjects. If possible, could you tell us, for example, what subjects you talked about and in what kind of situation?
Response by His Imperial Highness Prince Akishino

I do not think that this is the place to talk about specific details, but I can say that the contents covered quite a wide range.


Finally, Your Imperial Highness said that talking about various matters itself was important to you. Could you be a little more specific here?

Response by His Imperial Highness Prince Akishino

Essentially our volume of experience is different. Of course, that is because our ages are different, too. But, for example, I might ask what His Majesty did at such and such a time, and His Majesty will talk about what he did. That kind of conversation. There are various situations, of course, but I myself, and also my wife, have learned a lot by listening to His Majesty talking about his experiences. It was in that sense that I said that listening to various stories was important for us, too.

unofficial translation