Press Conference on the occasion of His Imperial Highness Prince Akishino's Birthday (2004)

Proceedings of a Press Conference of Their Imperial Highnesses Prince and Princess Akishino on the occasion of the Birthday of HIH Prince Akishino.

Press Conference by Their Imperial Highnesses Prince and Princess Akishino.

Date:November 25, 2004

Prince Akishino Residence

Question 1
Your Highnesses, I would like to address this question to you both. Next year will mark the fifteenth anniversary of your marriage. First, would you care to give us your thoughts about this? Then, Your Highness Prince Akishino, could you tell us what you will tell Her Highness on this occasion? In addition, I'd like to ask Your Highness Princess Akishino, the same question- what do you plan to tell His Highness on this occasion?
HIH Prince Akishino

Next year we will have been married for fifteen years, and right now, it's about fourteen and a half years. During this time, both of us have experienced many important events. Reflecting on this span of time, it occurs to me that--- come to think of it, oh, it's been fourteen years. That's the way I feel about it. (Turning toward HIH Princess Akishino) How about you?

HIH Princess Akishino

During our marriage, while I have been performing my duties and caring for my family, I have been constantly helped and supported by many people, and I am very grateful for this. A little over fourteen years may not really be long enough to merit much in the way of deep reflection, but still I do recall warmly a number of occasions, including the events held in June of 1990 to mark the occasion of our marriage, the state ceremony marking His Majesty the Emperor's enthronement that I had the honor of attending in November of the same year, and the visits I have made, while accompanying His Highness, both in Japan and abroad. Also, having two daughters has been a great joy for me.

HIH Prince Akishino

You asked what I would like to say to my wife? (After checking with the reporter;) "I hope that you will keep up the good work that you have been doing and will continue to have opportunities to explore the areas where your interests lie." That's about it, I think.

HIH Princess Akishino

I would like to say, "Please take good care of your health and I hope that you will continue to perform your duties well." Also, I would say, "I look forward to seeing the results of your academic research."

Question 2
Your Highness Prince Akishino, I would like to ask you this question. Her Imperial Highness the Crown Princess has been recuperating for an extended period of time. Some remarks made by His Imperial Highness the Crown Prince in May have triggered various reports and speculation about the Imperial Household. Being second in the order of imperial succession, and as his younger brother, how did you feel about this series of events and the various reports that resulted? Referring to Her Highness the Crown Princess, His Highness the Crown Prince replied, "I suspect that she has faced many difficulties due to the nature of life at the Crown Prince's Palace." Did you have, Your Highnesses, similar experiences after your marriage?
HIH Prince Akishino

Her Imperial Highness the Crown Princess is spending an extended period of time on her recuperation, and both of us pray for her early recovery.

Meanwhile, I was asked by you at last year's interview, as I recall, about how we would continue supporting His Majesty. I pointed out in my reply at that time concerning the importance of communication, or more specifically unhindered communication. Following up on that point, at the February press meeting of His Highness the Crown Prince, you asked him about my comment on the importance of unhindered communication, as I recall. In his reply, I think, His Highness said that maintaining good communication is a natural requirement. Considering that exchange, his remarks in May were indeed a bit of surprise to me, and His Majesty was also very surprised by those remarks, as I was told. My view about this is that, if circumstances such as those as mentioned earlier had in fact existed, it would have been better if His Highness had talked about them with His Majesty in advance, before speaking about them in forums such as press conferences. Public talk should have come after that, I think. It was something that was, I feel, regrettable.

There's another thing, right? The topic of difficult times related to the way of life at the Crown Prince's Palace. Now, there's something about this that was difficult for me to understand the meaning of, and I asked His Highness personally about it some time ago. Difficult times due to the setup at the Crown Prince's Palace, according to his words then, seems to refer to difficulties associated with the position of Her Highness the Crown Princess. In other words, once she married into the Imperial Household, she found many people working around her, and had many people around her in her living space. She had to take appropriate care of these people and pay proper attention to them, and was not able to go out as easily. In the presence of such circumstances, you asked, did we have similar difficulties? Well, this seems to have more to do with my wife than myself. Certainly, in contrast to the Crown Prince's Palace, which is a large organization, our place is staffed by a much smaller number of people, and it may be unreasonable to directly compare our experiences. With that in mind, what do you think? (Turning to ask HIH Princess Akishino)

HIH Princess Akishino

In my life after marriage, I found many new types of work to do and many customs and practices that I experienced for the first time. As I tried to perform my duties, I often wondered myself "what is the best way to fulfill my duties" or "how can I rise to the many challenges I face". With the kind assistance of people around me, I have gradually learned to perform each of my duties to the best of my abilities, as they are asked of me.

Their Majesties have quietly listened to what we think and what we feel and have warmly watched us as we perform our duties and as our daughters grow, and I am very grateful to their majesties. His Highness has always guided me, accurately understanding my thoughts and feelings, and considering the circumstances in which I find myself, and that has been a great support for me in my life.

Question 3
Your Highness Prince Akishino, after your press interview on your birthday last year, Mr. Yuasa, Grand Steward of the Imperial Household, referring to a third child of Your Highnesses, said, "Given the fact that Their Majesties now have three grandchildren, in the interest of prosperity of the Imperial Household, I have strong hopes that Their Highnesses will have a third child." His remarks spurred some lively debate. How did you, Your Highness, feel about that comment? Would you share with us your thoughts on this matter?
HIH Prince Akishino

It was last year that Mr. Yuasa, the Grand Steward, made the comment expressing his strong hopes for a third child. Shortly after that interview, he came to see me personally. His purpose was to explain his remarks to me. Upon hearing his explanation, and upon examining the records, I found that I was asked about a third child in my interview last year. The year before last, I had responded to a similar question by saying that we would consult with each other carefully about it, and I responded last year by saying that the circumstances had not changed from the year before last. The press representative submitted the question in light of this background, asking the Grand Steward whether or not Prince Akishino's views about this matter had changed. This is how I interpreted the question.

The Grand Steward said in response that, in the interest of prosperity of the Imperial Household, and, while surprisingly it was dropped in press reports or it was little known outside, he said that, also in the interest of prosperity of the household of Akishino, he had strong hopes for a third child. He said this in his position as the Grand Steward of the Imperial Household. When a person occupying the position of the Grand Steward of the Imperial Household is faced with that type of question, this was perhaps the only way that he could have answered the question. That's how I feel about it.

Question 4
Your Highnesses, I would like to address the next question to both of you. Her Imperial Highness Princess Mako has advanced to middle school and Her Imperial Highness Princess Kako took part in a recent figure-skating competition, both providing us images of lively and wholesome individuals. Would you care to tell us about their growth and development, perhaps with examples of episodes of their daily life?
HIH Prince Akishino

Shall I go first? (Turning to ask HIH Princess Akishino)

Our elder daughter started middle school this past spring, and it appears to me she is enjoying her school life. She goes to exhibitions of art and painting, in which she has long shown a great deal of interest, and she is continuing to cultivate this interest further. Related to this, it was this summer, I believe, that she went to see repair and restoration work being performed on ancient documents. (Turning to HIH Princess Akishino for confirmation)

HIH Princess Akishino

(Nodding toward HIH Prince Akishino) Yes, during her summer vacation.

HIH Prince Akishino

Right. It was during the summer vacation, I think. The Imperial Household Agency has aan archives and department for managing documents and mausolea departmentums, and in one of its sections, they repair and restore ancient documents. Assuming that she might be interested in such activities, we took her to their workshop. She seemed very interested in how such documents were repaired and restored.

Meanwhile, my daughter Kako seems to enjoy skating and handicrafts such as origami. Often, when she has no homework, she spends some time folding origami. This past summer, we took the family to Hokkaido. Tokyo University has forests for training practice in Hokkaido; it is a vast place, and we spent three nights there, or was it two nights? (Looking towards HIH Princess Akishino for confirmation)

HIH Princess Akishino

I think it was three nights.

HIH Prince Akishino

For three nights, perhaps. My memories are a bit hazy. I think the trip proved to be a good chance for climbing mountains and learning to identify alpine plants and many trees. They had a good time, didn't they? (Turning to HIH Princess Akishino for agreement)

HIH Princess Akishino

Yes, we have many pleasant memories of the time we spent there.

HIH Prince Akishino

That is all from me.

HIH Princess Akishino

I am afraid that some of my points may overlap what His Highness has told you, but Mako has been a first grader in middle school since April this year, and Kako is now in the fourth grade in primary school. In contrast to her primary school, Mako's middle school has larger classes and a greater number of classes, and there are also classes on Saturdays. She seems to have adjusted to her new school life since she plays and studies with her classmates, borrows books from the school library, and participates in school events. Kako also plays and studies actively with her classmates, and out of school hours, as His Highness mentioned, she seems to enjoy making and creating crafts. She also puts in a lot of effort into her figure-skating practices and also rides a unicycle from time to time. She is very active physically.

HIH Prince Akishino

The sisters ride unicycles together, don't they? (Turning to HIH Princess Akishino for agreement)

HIH Princess Akishino

Yes, they try to hold each other's hand while riding. Sometimes, they seem to be trying to devise new ways to ride their unicycles, and just watching them is very enjoyable. When they come home from school, they talk about things that happened at school, and these days, we find ourselves talking about a wide range of things, sometimes about our own daily life, and at other times about events in society at large. They ask questions about some of the things they don't know or understand, and His Highness answers their questions carefully and patiently. When I cannot answer their questions, I often try to find the answers with them, and this sort of time spent together is another source of happiness for us. We really value it.

As His Highness mentioned, both Mako and Kako are now to some extent able on their own to pursue their interests by themselves and to work towards their goals. In this process, I think they have had both good times and bad. His Highness and I will try to watch carefully as they go through this process of gaining valuable experience.

Question 5
Your Highnesses, I would like to address this question to both of you. Looking back on the past year, would you kindly tell us about your impressions of events in the world at large, your family, official duties, and research? And please tell us about anything that you hope to become involved in the future.
HIH Prince Akishino

Well, looking back on the past year, the fact that we have had a very large number of natural disasters has left me with a strong impression. Repeated typhoons followed by the Chuetsu earthquake in Niigata brought death to many people and caused injury and suffering for many others. I would like to offer our sincere prayers that the souls of those who passed away may rest in peace, and to send our sympathies to those who are suffering from injury and damage to their homes and properties. Many strong aftershocks were felt in a rapid succession since the severe earthquake, and the fear that the residents of the region feel about further aftershocks must be a great source of anxiety for them. Moreover, it was reported that a big lake has been created by dammed-up floodwater, and that a large part of a village is under water as a result. These reports have made me more aware of the terrible consequences of natural disasters.

Meanwhile, Japanese bears are frequently encountered when they come down into areas where people live and work. It is the first time that this much damage is being caused by bears in this country. They are not afraid of human beings, it seems, and are called "new-generation" bears, I was told. These incidents made me start thinking that one of the things that more attention should be paid to is the question of how human beings can live in harmony with wildlife and the environment.

On the bright side, the Olympics took place in Athens this past summer together with the Paralympics. Japanese athletes participating in these games did very well and received good scores.Their performances certainly gave us the most memorable moments of the year.

I'd like to say a few words about my own research, if I may. The joint study project with Thailand, which I also referred to last year, has started, and study and research on multi-faceted relations between humans and chickens are gradually in progress. I look forward to producing some worthwhile results a few years later.

HIH Princess Akishino

Looking back over the past year, I would like to mention a few things, perhaps repeating some of what His Highness talked about.

First of all, there was a series of typhoons that came inland in the summer and fall, and then, the Chuetsu earthquake and its aftershocks. They have caused a great deal of damage to the affected regions, and I would like to offer our sympathies to the people who have suffered as a result.

On the threshold of severe winter weather, and in the face of difficulties caused by low temperatures and mental and physical fatigue, people in the affected areas are trying to help one another. The sight of such activities moved me and, in particular, I was touched by the rescue of the little boy, Yuta-chan, through the strenuous efforts by a rescue squad, after he had been trapped for four days. The thoughtful support activities done by many people who have come from other areas are also very impressive. I was told that those who have to remain in temporary shelters for some time and who have to get busy repairing their damaged homes may be forced to spend yet more time facing uncertainty and worry. I am deeply concerned about the people who have suffered, especially with the adverse effects of snowfalls that are expected to start soon. I want to extend my deepest sympathies to the people who are suffering from the effects of the storms and earthquakes, and I would like to express my heartfelt wish that they recover their full health quickly. I pray that they will be able to return to the peace and quiet lives soon.

The summer Olympics and the Paralympics held in Athens this last summer were attended by many Japanese athletes who displayed their prowess in various fields, giving us great joy.

In January next year, Melbourne, Australia, which incidentally is now in the summer season, will host the summer Deaflympics. This athletic event has a long history behind it, and Japanese athletes with hearing disabilities are now training so that they can participate in ten different events. Being associated with a sign-language speech contest in Japan, I look forward to meeting with Deaflympic representatives next month.

In addition, the winter world meet for the Special Olympics will be held in Nagano during February and March of next year. I have been informed that many people are engaged in preparatory work for that event. I recently attended a charity film exhibit organized to promote the Nagano Special Olympics with my two daughters. The film featured the lives of two sisters with disabilities and their family in Dublin, Ireland. It was a very impressive story, describing various activities of people associated with the Special Olympics.

As you can see, I have been given a number of opportunities that allow me to stay involved with many sports. I intend to continue to closely follow the conduct of these athletic events as an interested observer, and I will also remember the extraordinary efforts of the people involved in supporting the activities and athletes.

In the meantime, as I did last year, I attended the international cultural forum organized by the Cultural Affairs Agency. The overall theme for this year was "cultural diversity" and a variety of events were undertaken that reflected this. One discussion meeting was entitled "Two Revolutions in the Modern History of Japanese Music," and the discussions delved deeply into the history of Japanese music, and were very interesting. Listening to the exchanges in this meeting, I wished again that I would like to understand and learn more about the acceptance and dissemination of music, a subject matter that I have long had an interest.

Related Question 1
The first question asked you to look back on your life after your marriage. In the meantime, we had the news of the unofficial disclosure of the forthcoming marriage of Her Imperial Highness Sayako. If I may, I would like to ask you to give us your comments about the personality of Her Highness and some episodes, perhaps from your recollections. Additionally, as His Highness mentioned earlier, while bleak reports on earthquakes, typhoons, and rainstorms predominate, this is certainly a positive piece of news, I think. So, even though it is not yet officially announced, I would like you to give us your personal views about Her Highness Sayako. Are there any points where Your Highnesses will be involved in the process of making a formal engagement for Her Highness? I'd appreciate any sort of information you might be able to provide about this.
HIH Prince Akishino

Since the press reported it the other day, several people have come to me with expressions of congratulation, and I was and still am deeply grateful to them for their sentiments. Still, as it is not officially announced, and I'm very sorry to say this, but I would like to refrain from making any comment.

Related Question 2
In our second question, about the remarks made by His Imperial Highness the Crown Prince, Your Highness stated that the process of his making those remarks was regrettable. Given the fact that the most important partner in the life of the Crown Prince is actually undergoing a prolonged recuperation, how do you, Your Highness, feel about it? That's my first question. His Highness the Crown Prince himself seems to have said that the way their official duties are performed will have to be reviewed together with the Imperial Household Agency, in light of the fact that official work changes as time goes by. If so, what would be a desirable direction of action on the part of the Imperial Household as a whole, about the recovery of health by Her Highness the Crown Princess? And, what would prerequisites be, let's say, for the recovery of the Crown Princess? If you have any thoughts about these points, Your Highness, please let us know.
HIH Prince Akishino

Would you mind repeating the first part?


Her Highness the Crown Princess is in recuperation. This is the most important partner in the life of His Highness the Crown Prince. How do you, Your Highness, feel about it?

HIH Prince Akishino

Well, for instance, if I were in the same circumstances, now, and this would be true not only for me but also for any other person as well, I think, the situation would be most worrisome. Would you mind repeating that part about official work again?


My apologies for asking you a very abstract question. His Highness the Crown Prince said in effect that he would like to review the way official work is done together with the Imperial Household Agency, since such work changes as time goes by. Perhaps, the Imperial Household as a whole may be undergoing changes, I suspect. With that in mind, what sort of direction, let's say, should the Imperial Household as a whole take in the interest of promoting the early recovery of Her Highness the Crown Princess?

HIH Prince Akishino

What I'm going to say may not be a direct response. And, identifying what is official work is also a very difficult matter, I think. Naturally, we, members of the Imperial Household, are expected to perform a variety of duties of an official nature. As far as I am concerned, personally, I'm not going to create official jobs for my own sake. In other words, I have many things that I personally want to pursue, but whether or not they are official work is a different matter. In my view, official duties are rather passive in nature. We're going to hold this or that event, people say, and they ask us to attend them. If we think a given event is very valuable, then we accept the request as required. Personally, that's how I understand the process, and that's how I have been going about my responsibilities. Would that be a satisfactory answer?

Related Question 3
Your Highnesses, I would like to address this next question to both of you. These days, a friend of Your Highnesses' by the name of Mr. Yoshiki Kuroda has become very well known in the media. Will you mind talking a little about Mr.Kuroda? What kind of relationship do you have with him? We would be most appreciative if there is anything you could tell us.
HIH Prince Akishino

As it is not yet officially announced, I'd like to refrain from making any comments, and ask for your understanding on this.

unofficial translation