Press Conference by His Imperial Highness Crown Prince Akishino on the Occasion of His Birthday (2019)
As to my feelings about now being Crown Prince, I think there was a similar question at the press conference before I visited Poland and Finland in June, when I spoke about my basic feeling that as an individual, I remain the same person as before. Therefore, such occasions as coming of age, the change of Imperial reign, and getting married do not change an individual person. However, as I said at the previous press conference in June, I believe that it is important for human beings to strive for gradual improvement. In this spirit, I would like to keep trying to make progress with every step that I take.
Was the next part of your question on Their Majesties the Emperor and Empress?
Would you please also tell us your thoughts on the path taken by Their Majesties the Emperor and Empress over the last seven months.
Over the last seven months since May, of Their Majesties the Emperor and Empress, especially His Majesty the Emperor, is now performing acts in matters of state on a daily basis, which He had previously performed when they were delegated to Him.
Besides performing these acts in matters of state, there are other duties and activities such as audiences held at the Imperial Palace. Furthermore, Their Majesties the Emperor and Empress have taken over the attendance of ceremonies during Imperial visits, and the reception of overseas dignitaries from Their Majesties the Emperor Emeritus and Empress Emerita. In addition, His Majesty the Emperor has continued to perform some activities that He used to undertake before His Enthronement, and therefore He has been extremely busy.
Her Majesty the Empress has also attended ceremonies related to the Red Cross Society as well as accompanying His Majesty the Emperor on visits to regional areas, and therefore has been much busier than before.
Moreover, a series of Ceremonies for the Accession to the Throne were conducted this autumn. Although not all of the ceremonies have been completed yet, I hope that all these ceremonies will be successfully completed.
As your family now performs a greater number of official duties, what are your thoughts also on the way activities are performed, and on the role of the Imperial Family in the new Era of Reiwa?
Well, I think that the way to perform activities is rather hard to say in a word because while I perform my own activities, my wife is also performing her own activities. Moreover, our daughters are performing their own activities. While our activities may include some activities that we do together, there are also some activities that are carried out by individual members of the family. Therefore, I find it quite difficult to speak about the desirable way to perform activities by combining all of these activities together. However, I can put it this way, that whether these activities are assigned to us to be performed, or are performed in an honorary capacity, it is important to perform each and every activity conscientiously as best I can.
What are your thoughts also on the role of the Imperial Family in the new Era of Reiwa?
On the role of the Imperial Family in the new Era of Reiwa, I think that what is fundamental in performing our duties is what His Majesty the Emperor Emeritus has often said, which is to be with the people by sharing their joys and sorrows, and by wishing for their happiness. On this fundamental basis, the required role will change with the times. Therefore, I believe that we need to give constant careful thought to the role required as times change. Alongside this, the Imperial Family also preserves long-standing customs. Among these there are various customs that are important, which I believe need to continue to be preserved.
Well, are you asking about the Ceremony of the Enthronement of His Majesty the Emperor held this autumn? I also attended as Crown Prince the series of Ceremonies for the Enthronement of His Majesty the Emperor. And I am relieved that the ceremonies, including the Daijōsai*, have been successfully completed.
A very large number of guests from abroad attended the Ceremony of the Enthronement of His Majesty the Emperor at the Seiden (State Hall). It was a most delightful occasion to talk with them at the Court Banquet in the evening after the Ceremony of the Enthronement.
In another event related to the Accession, the Imperial Procession by motorcar after the Ceremony of the Enthronement, I accompanied Their Majesties in the car behind Their Majesties. I was deeply gratified to see how the enormous number of people lined on the roadside were celebrating the Accession of His Majesty.
When I attended the Ceremony of the Enthronement at the Seiden, I found one thing that was different. At the previous Ceremony, held in the Heisei period, His Majesty (then the Crown Prince) was beside me, so when I wondered how to act I felt I could look at Him. This was also the case at the Daijōsai, but I could not do the same this time. I also thought that other participants would act in the same manner as I did this time, and therefore I felt a little tense in making sure that I did not act incorrectly at the Ceremony. This was one of the things that I found different from the previous Ceremonies held in the Heisei period.
The Daijōsai is a rite, which is rooted in the rice harvest ceremony conducted since ancient times in Japan, in which the newly-enthroned His Majesty the Emperor prays for the peace of the nation and its people, and for a bountiful crop by offering new rice to the Imperial Ancestor, Amaterasu-Omikami (the Sun Goddess), and all deities of heaven and earth, as well as by His Majesty the Emperor partaking of the offerings.
Would you please also tell us your thoughts about appropriating public funds for the Daijōsai.
How I feel on this matter still remains unchanged from when I spoke about it last year.
Was the next part of your question on the Ceremonies for the change of Imperial reign?
With the Ceremony for Proclamation of Crown Prince scheduled for spring next year, would you please tell us your thoughts on the desirable way to perform the Ceremonies for the change of Imperial reign.
On the desirable way to perform the Ceremonies for the change of Imperial reign, I spoke last year about the Daijōsai. As many of the other Ceremonies, including the Ceremonies for Proclamation of Crown Prince, are the Emperor’s acts in matters of state, I will refrain from giving my view here.
My current thoughts on the outlook for the marriage remain unchanged from what I said at the press conference last year.
However as mentioned in the question, the postponement will mark two years in February next year.
I think that it is necessary to release some kind of announcement, since an announcement of their feelings at the time was released in February last year.
As for discussions with my eldest daughter, there has not been an opportunity to talk about her marriage.
Recently, we have talked about the series of Ceremonies for the Accession.
I have had no correspondence with Mr. Komuro's family.
That is all that I have to say on this matter.
On my son, he graduated from elementary school and entered junior high school this April. Interestingly, he appears to be somewhat more mature, I wonder if this is because he now wears his junior high school uniform. On our visit to the Kingdom of Bhutan this summer, I was very pleased to see the curiosity he is showing, in his own way, to absorb various things of interest. As regards how he is getting on recently, he has been developing an interest in dragonflies for quite some time. Here within the Akasaka Estate, he has been observing dragonflies at various locations, and from 3 years ago he has been monitoring at regular intervals the species of dragonfly that inhabit the Estate. In the natural course of this monitoring, although I cannot recollect exactly how many years ago, biological studies were conducted at the Imperial Palace together with the Akasaka Estate, which revealed that several previously unrecorded species inhabit the Akasaka Estate.
He now seems to have moved on to monitoring whether the dragonflies just came flying to stay here for a while or are inhabiting the Estate for breeding. I sometimes tell my son that although this sort of monitoring may not bring great discoveries, it may nevertheless later be found to be valuable in tracking how the ecosystem of the Akasaka Estate has evolved over time.
Was the next part of your question on how I plan to educate Prince Hisahito from here on?
Your Highness, may I clarify what you have said earlier, that Prince Hisahito’s findings revealed that species of dragonflies not previously recorded by the biological studies of the National Museum of Nature and Science, Tokyo, were inhabiting the Akasaka Estate?
Yes, that is what I meant.
Thank you for the clarification.
The second part of the question is about how you plan to educate Prince Hisahito from here on.
I think I have spoken about this before, last year if not the year before last, that based on my own experience, I definitely hope he will visit various places within Japan. This is because each region in Japan has its intriguing local culture. The local natural environment serves as the backdrop to each indigenous culture. I think it would be extremely meaningful in the future to learn from visiting these places because it would enable him to talk about some interesting and intriguing things, especially when traveling overseas and talking to people abroad who are eager to learn about Japan from my own experience. From this point of view as well, I hope he will travel to see various places and learn by listening.
What was the next part of your question?
Princess Kako made her first official overseas visit. Would you please tell us about the expectations you hold for the official activities of Princess Kako from now on, and whether there are plans for her to work or to marry, and on how Princess Kako is getting on.
My second daughter made her first official overseas visit this year to Austria and Hungary, which I think was a good experience for her. I have the impression that she allocated a considerable amount of time to listening to experts on the region, and to studying by reading books and doing research extensively on her own. In fact, this is not limited just to this overseas visit, but I have the impression that she prepares well for attending ceremonies and before meeting visitors from overseas in Japan, probably as a result of her naturally earnest character. I hope that she will continue to nurture this mindset of performing each and every activity conscientiously.
On whether there are plans for her to work or to marry, I do not have anything to talk about at this moment on her plans to work, but I think and hope that it would be nice if she could find one or more interests that she can pursue as her life’s work. And on her plans for marriage, I have not heard that she has any plans to get married at the moment.
That is all that I have to say on this matter.
Various incidents that occurred both in Japan and abroad are worrisome in many ways, but I will mention a few of those that were memorable, which naturally includes natural disasters as indicated in the question. Although I wish that such natural disasters would not occur every year, since September again this year, typhoons no. 15 came, followed by no. 19, and then typhoon no. 21, which brought heavy torrential rainfall that flooded rivers, and windstorms that resulted in long extended blackouts. Even at the present time, there are still more than 2,000 evacuees. Therefore, I think that how to respond to these natural disasters has been and will remain to be a challenge. This time it was initially hard to imagine that so many river banks would burst, resulting in flooding. Although flood hazard maps are available, this flooding should encourage the early completion of the maps that are still to be completed for quite a number of small or medium-sized rivers, to enable the consideration that I think is necessary for safer evacuation from areas that are shown as prone to flooding.
Another regrettable incident is the loss of Shurijo Castle Seiden (Main Hall), Hokuden (North Hall), and Nanden (South Hall) in a fire, together with quite a large number of objects housed in Shurijo Castle. Shurijo Castle, which had previously been restored, is a place that has been a homeland of the heart and soul of the people of Okinawa. I relatively recently visited the newly-opened Ouchibara area, through which I walked and from where(Agari-no-Azana) I enjoyed the view, so I was shocked and extremely saddened to see the news.
Among various other incidents, we now see the spread of Classical Swine Fever (CSF), for instance. I think that this is also a major blow for pig farmers. In addition, wild boars are also infected, and in this sense too, countermeasures are extremely important. Besides this, protection against African Swine Fever (ASF) is also worrisome.
Furthermore, one more unfortunate issue is that the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) in its report estimates that 1 million species of animal and plant species on earth are now at risk of extinction. I think this is quite a big problem because while humans are a part of the earth’s ecosystem, human interventions, which I think are mainly to do with land use, are causing degradation of the natural environment that supports our human societies. While acknowledging that I am not in a position to say something on what measures are to be taken, I think this was one of the major issues of this year.
As mentioned in the question, one encouraging topic is that Professor Akira Yoshino has been awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. Lithium-ion batteries are already in common use, and I am one of the people who enjoy their benefits, as I use mobile phones and personal computers, too. I talked with Professor Yoshino for the first time recently at the tea reception inviting the recipients of the Order of Cultural Merit and People of Cultural Merit. The Japan Student Science Award that I attend every year is hosted by the Yomiuri Shimbun and sponsored by Asahi Kasei Corporation. Professor Yoshino’s name is mentioned in every remark that the representative of Asahi Kasei Corporation makes, so his name was very familiar to me, although I had not met him before. It is most gratifying that he has been awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry this year.
Another encouraging topic is the Rugby World Cup. Japan’s national team made it to the final eight for the first time. I think the spectacular showing of Japan’s national team was really remarkable. As I started viewing the tournament games without any knowledge, at first, frankly, I could not understand what was going on. I accumulated more knowledge bit by bit, and the more I viewed the games both in person and on television, the more my enjoyment of them was increased, although still short of gaining a full understanding. It was also the first time that I came to know that there are so many rugby football fans in Japan. I think that it was a spectacular tournament. Related to this, I also visited the rugby football stadium in Kamaishi during the tournament. It was especially moving that the stadium was built on a site devastated by the tsunami, and that many people gathered at the stadium.
I have mentioned some of the various kinds of topics that made an impression on me this year.
On the system of succession to the Throne, I cannot give an answer because this is a matter for the legal system.
However, as you have just said, we are now in an advanced aging society. In addition, the difference of around 10 years between the average longevity of above 80 years and the average healthy life expectancy of 70 years also varies from one individual to another. Therefore, I think that what an individual is capable of doing at what stage of aging would vary significantly depending on each individual person.
Although repetitions and prepositions functioning as auxiliaries to the main word have been slightly supplemented and corrected in order to clarify the speech of His Highness, the substance of his remarks has not been changed.
Abbreviation of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services
Abbreviation of Classical Swine Fever
Abbreviation of African Swine Fever