Address Delivered by H.M.Empress Michiko
on the occasion of the Fiftieth Anniversary Celebration
of the College Women's Association of Japan

Wednesday, April 21, 1999

at Hotel Okura

Ambassador Foley, Ambassador Fujii, President Inoue, Members of CWAJ and Assembled Guests :

It is a true joy for me to be invited to attend this ceremony celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of the College Women's Association of Japan, and share with you this happy and memorable occasion.

I have been told that this Association was started in 1949, by four American and two Japanese Mount Holyoke alumnae. When they heard of the difficulties young Japanese students were facing in the financially severe post-war period, having received scholarships from Colleges in the United States but not being able to pay their passage, they formed a group to help provide financial assistance for these students. From this small group of six, it has grown today into a truly international and highly respected Association, with 700 members from 30 countries, and with well established activities which are steadily expanding. I should like to extend to all those who have helped over the years, and to those who are at present, daily taking care of it, my sincerest and heartfelt congratulations on the fiftieth anniversary of the Association, now widely known as CWAJ. I have said "daily", but I know that there are also in this Association some members called the "night owls", who come and work in the evenings, so perhaps I should have said "those who devote themselves day and night".

The first time I attended a CWAJ event was in 1980, nineteen years ago, for the opening of an exhibition of contemporary prints. Prior to that day, Mrs. Katano, then Vice President in charge of cultural affairs, kindly came to see me to brief me on the Association and its activities. As I listened, I felt a strong empathy towards the Association's double objectives: the institution of scholarships and the promotion of educational and cultural activities, and was happily surprised to hear of the novel idea of raising funds for the scholarship grants through spot sale exhibitions of prints. I became aware then, of the strong bond of trust which exists between the members, and the deep feeling of gratitude each member feels for the support given her by the members of her family.

I remember the opening ceremony of nineteen years ago as simply wonderful, marred only by the fact that I was not very skillful in cutting the tape to open the ceremony. I enjoyed viewing all the beautiful prints exhibited, and felt deeply grateful to all the artists who through the years have been giving their kind collaboration to CWAJ. On that day, just like today, each member was going about her task in a lively and happy manner, and the joyful mood flowing between the members remains vivid in my memory to this day.

Nineteen years have passed since then. When this past February, in preparation for my attendance to this fiftieth anniversary ceremony, I met Mrs. Inoue the incumbent president and some of the CWAJ officers for a briefing on the growth of the Association and its development since 1980, I could not help being pleasantly surprised to feel in the room where we sat, the same joyful mood which had so impressed me nineteen years ago. I asked myself where this “joyfulness” came from, and my guess was that it might be due to the fact that the foundresses of the Association started with a definite objective in mind, that of helping those who had the desire to study but not the means to do so; moreover, all the members who succeeded them worked for the same goal, always carefully examining the needs of the day in the light of changing times and making necessary adjustments from time to time, in this way proving that their activities have become richer and more fruitful as the years go by. In this lively association, necessity gives birth to new projects, new projects offer worthwhile tasks to perform, and the performing of this work fosters budding friendships and cultural exchanges. I hope and wish that this vitality and joyfulness will always be with the Association and its members.

I have been looking forward to today, and have come, holding in my hand the charming entrance ticket featuring a festive champagne bottle, designed by the members. I am feeling more relaxed today, because this time there is no tape cutting!

In closing, I should like, on this auspicious 50th anniversary year of its founding, to congratulate CWAJ for the superb work achieved during this half century, wish all its members and those present here today, all the best in the years ahead, and pray with all my heart for the good future of the College Women's Association of Japan.







Address Delivered by H. M. Empress Michiko
on the occasion of the Fiftieth Anniversary Celebration
of the Japan-America Women's Club

Wednesday, June 9, 1999

at Hotel Okura

Mrs. Foley, President Kiyono, dear members and friends of the Japan-America Women's Club

Thank you very much for inviting me to this luncheon today. It is with great pleasure that I have come, to be with you on this auspicious occasion and celebrate together the fiftieth anniversary of the Japan-America Women's Club.

The idea of creating a Japan-America Women's Club, as your President has just told us, was conceived by Count Kabayama, then President of the America-Japan Society, quite soon after the end of the war, in 1948. At that time the conclusion of a peace treaty was still several years away, but Count Kabayama felt that in order to be ready for a new era in the relationship of our two countries, not only the men but the women too should prepare themselves for it. He transmitted this thought to Mrs. Kadono, a leader of women's movement since pre-war days, thus sowing the first seed in the forming of this organization. In your Year Book 1998-1999 which I received recently, there is a concise but very moving "early history of the Japan-America Women's Club" written by Mrs. Maki. It was she who, together with Mrs. Kadono, worked and formed this association fifty years ago. Mrs. Maki tells the reader of the faith and trust Count Kabayama placed in women, and of the kind concern of all the members of the America-Japan Society of the time, whom she affectionately calls "the Club's foster fathers", who watched over and supported the budding Women's Club from its birth through the first years of its life. She recalls the devotion of Mrs. Kadono who took her given task to heart, and in those post-war days when almost everyone had either been bombed out or had evacuated, went to great pains to find her friends to solicit their participation in this new project. Gratefully she mentions the three American women who came to their help: Mrs. Bratton, Mrs. Downs and Mrs. Durgin, whose help and advice were precious. Her account makes us sense the insight, wisdom and fervor of every person concerned, and above all, the earnest wish held by every member to get to know each other better and to learn from each other, in order to build between the two countries strong ties in a new era of peace. It was through the concerted efforts of these persons that the Japan-America Women's Club was born in 1949.

Fifty years ago, as in your President's speech, Tokyo had not yet recovered from the devastation caused by the war. The women who formed the core of the future club held their meetings in a room of the America-Japan Society, housed in a building which had withstood the air-raids.

During the winter, the only heating available was a hibachi which contained a few pieces of burning charcoal, around which they all huddled; yet of these meetings Mrs. Maki writes: "few club meetings can have a feeling of joy, friendliness and sheer pleasure equal to that which permeated those early meetings around the hibachi". She also mentions the layer cake brought by Mrs. Bratton to commemorate the foundation of the Club ; it was for the Japanese their first post-war layer cake, their first in several years, ─ and an unforgettable memory!

How proud you must all be, when turning your thought to the club's beginning, you realise that in severe poverty, and with only the little warmth from the one hibachi, those women of the two countries which until a few years ago had been enemies, met in friendship and in mutual trust to form this club together. I strongly believe that the thoughtfulness, perseverance and open-hearted attitude shown by the foundresses in those days have been transmitted through the years as the time-honoured tradition of this association, and that it is with the same spirit that you have maintained and looked after the Club's growth and progress.

The Club is now independent, and continues its activities as an individual organization. According to the officers of this Club, the membership has grown, not only horizontally but vertically as well : maybe, among those of you present today, there are members whose mothers and grandmothers are or were members. As Mrs. Kiyono has kindly mentioned, My own mother, who passed away more than ten years ago, had joined the Club in 1956 and was its member until her death.

Our two countries, the United States and Japan, have built a truly close and intimate relationship. I remember hearing Ambassador Mike Mansfield, a long time friend of Japan, describing the deepness and closeness of our relationship, always ending his statement with his favorite expression: "Bar none".

The reality, however, is not just simple. There do exist even today problems between our two countries, and I think this is unavoidable during the deepening of a relationship. I think that when politically or economically, the two countries face a difficult situation, in order to bear the momentary ordeal with patience and generosity, and keep alive the friendly feelings, it is indispensable that a wide stratum of the people on both sides store in them understanding and good will towards their respective countries.

On the occasion of your fiftieth anniversary, I should like to express my deep appreciation for the role played by the Japan-America Women's Club and I pray with all my heart for its continued successful development. May the people of both countries continue to wish well upon each other, cultivate good friendship, and may there be peace between our countries for many, many years to come.