Press Conference on the Occasion of the Birthday of His Imperial Highness Prince Akishino (2005)

Transcript of Press Interview by 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 22, 2005

Residence of TIH Prince and Princess Akishino

Question 1
Your Highnesses, I would like to address this question to you both. The former HIH Princess Sayako was recently married to Mr. Yoshiki Kuroda, who is a long-time friend of Your Highness Prince Akishino. Your Highness seems to have acted as a "mediator" between the couple and you have been keeping close to them and supporting them. Would you mind telling us about any memorable events you witnessed during this process? Would you also consider telling us what, if any words of blessing you offered them? We would be grateful if you would include your recollections of any events that served to strengthen the bonds of mutual fondness between the two, or any events in general that stood out for you during their courtship.
HIH Prince Akishino

It was exactly one week ago that the couple were married (November 15th), and they have received the blessings of many people, and I also want reiterate my congratulations to them.

You asked about the my blessings on the their wedding day… just after the ceremony, I spoke to them together, rather than separately, saying, "Congratulations," and "Please take good care of each other."

As for interesting episodes… to tell the truth, I was the one who arranged for them to have the opportunity to meet the first time, and after that I provided a venue for them to be together on several occasions. Despite this though, I would say that basically neither my wife nor I tried to do anything beyond creating opportunities for them to meet. As a result, even if you asked me to recall specific episodes, I can't really think of anything special. (Turning to see HIH Princess Akishino).

HIH Princess Akishino

(After pondering for a few moments) I can recall some occasions at the beginning of their courtship.

HIH Prince Akishino

In the beginning, yes. (Nodding toward HIH Princess) I said I made the arrangements for their first opportunity. I'm not very good at doing this kind of thing in a straightforward manner, so when I broached the topic with Mr. Kuroda, I remember feeling quite embarrassed about it myself.

HIH Princess Akishino

I am very pleased that their mutual fondness for each other has blossomed since they first met nearly two years ago to the point where they decided to get married. I sincerely pray that they will be blessed with good health and that they will be able to build a happy family together.

As His Highness just said, they had the chance to meet each other at our residence on several occasions. Just as His Highness was mindful of respecting their privacy, I shared His Highness's attitude and did not try to solicit any specific comments from them during their courtship. Looking back over the years leading up to their wedding, I cannot help but feel very grateful to her. After we got married, for many years I often used to find myself being tense due to the many unfamiliar situations that I experienced at the court, and her presence close by was a source of comfort and support for me. Many times she was kind enough to help lighten my burden, and she took care to provide pleasant pastimes and a comfortable environment for our daughters when I had to leave to work for extended periods of time. Our daughters in their infancy adored Her Highness Princess Sayako calling her "big sis." They felt very close to her as they grew up, and they are very happy about her marriage.

I would like to reiterate our sense of deep and sincere appreciation for the thoughtfulness she extended to us on numerous occasions.

Question 2
Your Highnesses, I would like to address this question to you both. Would you mind telling us about the recent lives of Their Imperial Highnesses Princess Mako and Princess Kako, and how they are developing? In particular, could you include some descriptions of some of the recent events in their life? Given the recent discussions on revising the Imperial Household Law, it's possible that Their Imperial Highnesses Mako and Kako may remain members of the Imperial Household for life. Under these circumstances, would you care to tell us about your approach to your daughters' education?
HIH Prince Akishino

Our oldest daughter is now a second grader in middle school, and the younger one is in the fifth grade in elementary school. When you are living close together, things tend to flow together, and you don't really notice how much your children have grown over the year. This past summer, was it in July that we attended "The 2005 Children's World Summit for the Environment". (Asking HIH Princess Akishino)

HIH Princess Akishino

(After a moment of thought) Yes, it was in July.

HIH Prince Akishino

"The 2005 Children's World Summit for the Environment" was held in Aichi prefecture in July, and our daughters were also invited to attend. The participants ranged from ten to fourteen years old and were in exactly the same age group as our daughters. As I watched the attendants take part in very active discussions, I realized that our daughters have reached a similar stage of development. Our children had a chance to take part in some of the events at the conference and I'm sure they must have found it to be a very enjoyable experience.

In addition, our oldest daughter spent some time at "Expo 2005," visiting a significant number of the foreign pavilions. Our younger daughter arrived a little later, didn't she?

HIH Princess Akishino

Yes, that is correct. They went around to a few of the pavilions together.

HIH Prince Akishino

Many of the pavilions we visited were set up by countries we had visited on our official trips, and our daughters showed a lot of interest in the individual items on display in those pavillions. While they didn't mention any specific locations, they told me a number of times that they wanted to visit these countries themselves someday in the future. It was the first time I can recall them having this sort of reaction.

Let me turn now to our younger daughter. Topics about the environment must be coming up every now and then in her class work at school. This past year, she seems to have been thinking about ways to stay cool in summer while cutting back on air-conditioning and she suggested that we let the creeper of perennial morning glory cover the exterior of our windows so that they would act like a curtain. We worked on it together. Another thing I've noticed concerns my personal computer. I'm not really very good with mechanical devices, and while I do use a personal computer sometimes, I don't really know much about most of the functions that are available on it, but my younger daughter comes to my room every now and then and offers me advice on this or that function when I don't know how to use them well.

HIH Princess Akishino

Please allow me to comment on the lives of our daughters. Mako, our elder daughter, seems to be leading a fulfilling life, by participating in various school events at her middle school. On holidays, just as in the past, we have found time to visit art galleries and museums together this year. After such outings, she often tells us about things that she thought were impressive and exciting. She seems to be talking more about movie music and musicals recently and is often playing melodies on the piano that she apparently likes. I intend to keep sharing as much time as possible with her in appreciating the various arts so that her life is as enriched as possible.

Kako, the young one, is intently focused on her school life, but she still finds time to practice her skating skills. She likes physical exercises, but at the same time, she now seems to be spending more time indoors spending time on more quiet pursuits; I often find her enjoying books recommended by her big sister. She even manages to use some of the shorter periods of free time she has, creating dolls and ornaments out of materials available at hand, like bits of cloth or wool yarn, and she also enjoys preparing cakes and cookies.

She often invites me to join her when enjoying these sorts of things, and I am happy that she still finds joy in creating things on her own.

HIH Prince Akishino

As for our approach to their education, as deliberations are under way on the Imperial Household Law, it is important, I think, that our daughters are aware of their current status. At the same time, I hope that they will also continue to develop their individual identities and take the time to nurture their own interests.

HIH Princess Akishino

As for our approach to their education, though I may be repeating what I said in earlier press conferences, I intend to see that our daughters continue to pursue their own interests, learn and equip themselves with proper living habits, and are healthy both mentally and physically. As they learn from the experiences they acquire as they get older, they will, I hope, acquire a well-balanced knowledge and outlook, and as a result be capable of dealing with difficult and complicated issues that they may face in their lives.

Question 3
This question is addressed to Your Imperial Highness Prince Akishino. In the press interview held on the occasion of your birthday last year, you referred to the importance of communication in the Imperial Family. In the ensuing year since, how, if I may ask, did you try to maintain this communication? Would you cite some specific examples?
HIH Prince Akishino

In my press conference last year, I think I talked with you about the importance of communicating with His Majesty. After one year is past, you're asking about the current circumstances. Basically, little has changed. We make a point of finding time to visit the Imperial Residence, and when they go out to Imperial Villas, we try to join them as much as possible when we can match our schedule with theirs. Since our children always look forward to visiting the palace, we try to give them this opportunity from time to time.

As for our communication with His Imperial Highness the Crown Prince… as Her Imperial Highness the Crown Princess herself has indicated, her physical condition varies from time to time, so we have not tried to visit Togu Palace on our own. Nevertheless, if and when we're contacted, we will always be ready to go see them at any time. On weekends, by the way, if Their Highnesses are playing tennis and we happen to be taking one of our usual weekend walks in the vicinity, we try to say hello and chat with them, even if for a short while.

Question 4
This question is addressed to Your Imperial Highness Prince Akishino. In the press interview held on the occasion of your birthday last year, you touched on the way that your "official work" was to be performed. Subsequently, His Imperial Highness the Crown Prince referred to differences of views "between generations" in February this year. Would you please reiterate your views about the way that members of the Imperial Family must conduct themselves?
HIH Prince Akishino

In our meeting last year, I used the word "passive" in regard to the way our official work is to be done. Aside from whether or not the word "passive" was appropriate, I believe that the official activities of the members of the Imperial Family must be performed in response to the needs of society. My view in this regard has not changed, and this is why I used the word "passive" to describe it. Given the premise that we perform our work when called on by society, I may be good at times at doing some of the work, and may not be so good at other times. Nevertheless, trying to participate in the various activities as widely as possible has provided me with many good opportunities and has actually served to enrich my store of experiences.

The way that the members of the Imperial Family should conduct themselves is rather difficult to define, but for my part, as I believe I said earlier, I am of the view that, if the activities that we are called upon to do are worthwhile, I would like to perform them as they come. In addition, as times change, we will have to conduct ourselves in accordance with the times we live in. As I said a few times before, one of the most important roles Members of the Imperial Family, after all, is to support His Majesty.

In your question, you mentioned the differences between generations. His Imperial Highness the Crown Prince himself referred to “a difference in the way of thinking of people of different generations,” and that was subsequent to my interview last year, wasn't it? Since I could not understand the comment fully, I asked him about it personally. I found out that when he referred to the differences between generations, he was not referring to the His Majesty the Emperor and His Imperial Highness the Crown Prince, or to His Majesty the Emperor and myself, or still between His Imperial Highness the Crown Prince and myself, (even though in this case the gap is nothing like a “generation gap”). He explained that that was not what he intended to say; he was, he said, just speaking in general terms.There may be a variety of ways of looking at our official activities, and basically, I continue to hold the view that we respond when we are called upon. Certain of the spheres of activity we are engaged in may expand in scope in the process, and we naturally we our individual interests may help to stoke this process. An approach of this sort, is I think, be very viable.

Question 5
Finally, this question is addressed to Your Imperial Highness Prince Akishino. You have now reached the age of forty, or the so-called age of "no vacillation." Looking over the years gone by, would you care to tell us about the events and encounters that stand out for you?
HIH Prince Akishino

Time flies, doesn't it? The average life span is said to be about eighty years, and I have come only to the mid point. Instead of hitting the age of "no vacillation," I'm afraid I'm still in the state of "vacillation."

As for my experiences over the past 40 years, there would be no end if I started to talk about what is memorable for me. Still, for my part, getting married and having children were of course very memorable events, and I recall very vividly our many visits to places in this country and abroad, and having the chance to experience the nature and culture of those areas. Her Highness and I attended the "Enthronement Ceremony," marking the transition from the Showa to the Heisei era, and the occasion left a very deep impression on me. I referred a moment ago to our visits to many places here and abroad, and we have had many opportunities to meet with members of the royal families of other countries. Many of them talked to us about the way they conduct their work in their respective countries, and sometimes we were allowed to watch them perform their activities. It was very significant, I think, that we have been able to have many of these sorts of opportunities. You also asked me about some of my memorable "encounters," and I must say that many of those memorable "events" and "encounters" have taken place at the same time. If I may turn to memorable encounters then, I would say that encounters with landscapes that are totally different from any that I have ever seen are always very impressive. For example, if you go to Mongolia, you will find an unbroken horizon all around you. You can't find this kind of landscape anywhere in Japan. Seeing landscape that is totally different from any that you have ever experienced before is very impressive, and it was always leave a lasting impression with you.

Thank you.

Supplementary Question 1
With regard to the Imperial Household Law mentioned in our second question, that is, the portion related to your approach to education, you stated with reference to Their Highnesses Princesses Mako and Kako that, "It is important that they are aware of their current status." Awareness can result from many causes, I think, so would you care to tell us in what way you want them to be aware?
HIH Prince Akishino

The awareness that I was referring to is something that is totally unrelated to the Imperial Household Law. Each of them is still young and just a child, but a large number of people are around them and involved in their lives. I want them to have a sense of appreciation, if I put it simply, toward these people and to take care that they do not unnecessarily burden those who are involved in their upbringing. This awareness is very important for them, I think, so in that sense, I want them to be properly aware of their current status. That is what I was referring to.

Supplementary Question 2
Regarding our first question, Your Highness said you created the circumstances for Mr. and Mrs. Kuroda to meet. Were you hopeful from the start that the two would sail smoothly into marriage? Now that they are actually married, do you think that that first meeting was successful? Would you care to comment?
HIH Prince Akishino

Now, you cannot tell how things will develop from the start, can you? He was a very important friend of mine, and trustworthy, and personable. I introduced him for these reasons, and whether or not the meeting would lead to what it did is something that I couldn't have had any way of predicting. (Turning to HIH Princess Akishino) Don't you agree?

HIH Princess Akishino

(Nodding toward HIH Prince Akishino) The couple themselves…

HIH Prince Akishino

Yes, that was a matter for the two of them to decide, and I did not know at all what would happen.

Supplementary Question 3
I'd like to ask another question along the same line, if I may. Earlier, Your Highness confessed that you were somewhat embarrassed when speaking with Mr. Kuroda. If it is all right with you, would you tell us what words you used to express yourself, and would you also tell us how Mr. Kuroda responded to your approach?
HIH Prince Akishino

Well, it all happened more than two years ago, you know, so as a result I do not recall the specific circumstances. But, at any rate, talking about something like this, or the way you broach this sort of topic is usually difficult I think.

I was a bit embarrassed, so it's hard to say how well I did. At any rate, since it created a chance for them to meet each other, it was a good thing, I think. Regardless, it all took place more than two years ago, so it's really difficult for me to recall the specific circumstances of what took place.