Press Conferences on the occasion of Her Majesty's Birthday (Written Answers) (2019)

A Recent Portrait of Her Majesty the Empress (Photo:Imperial Household Agency)
A Recent Portrait of Her Majesty the Empress (Photo:Imperial Household Agency)

Recent Portraits of Her Majesty the Empress on the occasion of Her Majesty's Birthday

Thoughts of Her Majesty the Empress on the Occasion of Her Birthday in 2019

December 9, 2019

This year saw the Heisei era draw to a close after more than 30 years with the abdication of His Majesty the Emperor Emeritus, and welcome the dawn of the new Reiwa era with the accession of His Majesty the Emperor at the beginning of May. As I greet my birthday this year I am filled with deep emotions as I look back on what has been a turning point of the times.

From the beginning of the year there were various ceremonies to celebrate the 30th Anniversary of His Majesty the Emperor Emeritus’s Enthronement and the 60th Wedding Anniversary of Their Majesties the Emperor Emeritus and the Empress Emerita. There then followed various ceremonies relating to the abdication of His Majesty the Emperor Emeritus, including the Taii-no-rei (Ceremony of the Abdication from the Throne). It left a deep impression on my heart to see Their Majesties the Emperor Emeritus and the Empress Emerita to continue to engage as they always have with such heartfelt sincerity in each and every one of their duties to mark the end of the Heisei era.

Following the accession to the Throne of His Majesty the Emperor on May 1, His Majesty smoothly concluded the series of ceremonies relating to the accession, and I too am relieved and delighted to have been able to be at His Majesty’s side at all of these ceremonies, all the while receiving the help and support of His Majesty. I am deeply grateful to Their Majesties the Emperor Emeritus and the Empress Emerita for their kindness and guidance from prior to the abdication to ensure that the changing of the Imperial era progressed smoothly, starting from the various ceremonies relating to His Majesty’s accession to the Throne. I would also like to express my profound appreciation to all people concerned for their efforts in preparing the various ceremonies and events.

Following the accession to the Throne of His Majesty the Emperor, I am sincerely grateful for the truly warm and almost astonishing outpouring of congratulations from so many of the people of Japan on the occasions of the visits of the general public to the Imperial Palace in May, and the People’s Festival and the Shukuga-Onretsu-no-gi (Imperial Procession by motorcar after the Ceremony of the Enthronement) in November. I have spent the past seven months being both delighted and also appreciative to have been recieved such warm feelings from so many people I have met on visits to the regions of Japan and at events held in Tokyo. The smiling faces I have encountered in every region of Japan remain in my heart as irreplaceable memories that will be a source of tremendous support from now into the future.

At the same time, I am deeply grateful that these warm feelings of the people of Japan are due in large part to the wonderful way in which Their Majesties the Emperor Emeritus and the Empress Emerita performed their duties throughout the Heisei era, sharing in the joys and sorrows of the people over the course of many years and turning their thoughts to the people and standing with them. I have also renewed my own desire to stand by His Majesty’s side in the days from now onward, hoping constantly for the happiness of the people and seeking to turn my thoughts to them.

It was against this backdrop that Japan was subjected to a number of natural disasters this year, including Typhoon No. 19 (Hagibis) in October, and it is extremely regrettable that these disasters wreaked such significant damage across a wide area of the country. I grieve deeply for the many people who fell victim to these disasters. My heart goes out to the bereaved families whose sadness I can but only imagine and to whom I would like to express my heartfelt condolences and sincerest sympathies. I am also concerned that many people were affected in the disasters and that they are continuing to have to endure various hardships in the increasingly cold weather. It is my heartfelt wish that recovery will progress steadily and that the people affected will be able to return as soon as possible to their daily lives with peace of mind.

In recent years many natural disasters have occurred in regions around the world other than Japan, including floods and forest fires, and it is a concern that issues such as global warming and climate change are gradually becoming a reality. In Japan, in addition to climate-related disasters it is also predicted that a large earthquake could strike, including in the Nankai Trough or directly under the Tokyo metropolitan region, making it all the more important to proceed with the implementation of various disaster risk reduction measures.

I am also worried about many environmental issues, including plastic litter, the domestic issues of poverty and child abuse, and the continuing conflicts and civil wars around the world. In this regard, it was extremely sad to hear that Dr. Tetsu Nakamura lost his life recently in Afghanistan, a country where he had spent many years engaging in medical activities and helping to develop irrigation systems, and in so doing supporting reconstruction efforts. It is my dearest wish that we can realize a peaceful world where all people can live with peace of mind.

As I look back on the past year, there has also been a good deal of happy news too. I was delighted that the recent Rugby World Cup 2019, held for the first time in Japan, turned out to be such a wonderful tournament, including everything from the “One Team” efforts of the Japanese National Team, to the world-class matches that were played around Japan by all competing national teams, as well as the heart-warming exchange and interaction between the competing teams and local residents in each host city. It was also very pleasing to see matches being played in Kamaishi City, one of the places affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake. Another episode that remains in my heart took place after Kamaishi City was unfortunately also damaged by Typhoon No. 19, resulting in match cancellations. The national team of Canada responded by engaging in volunteer activities, including work to remove mud, and the Namibian national team held an exchange event at their team camp in Miyako City, which was a source of encouragement for the people who had been affected by the disaster.

In the field of academia Prof. Akira Yoshino received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. I am delighted that the research results of Japanese researchers are receiving broad global recognition and that in recent years there has been a consistent stream of Japanese people receiving Nobel Prizes.

Next year will see the Olympic and Paralympic Games being held in Tokyo and just like the Rugby World Cup 2019, I hope that the Games will not only enable people to witness for themselves the wonder of sport, but will also provide an excellent opportunity for people from around the world with diverse backgrounds to come together in mutual respect and deepen friendships, and that the Games will also give further strength to the regions affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake.

Time has flown by and Aiko is already in her third year at high school and she celebrated her 18th birthday just the other day. In the little remaining time she has left at high school she is concentrating not only on her studies, but is also spending enjoyable times with her friends at school events, including sports meetings and cultural festivals. Once Aiko graduates from high school she will begin a period of her life where she gains more experiences and broadens her horizons more than ever before. I hope that from now on she will continue to nurture a spirit of appreciation and compassion, learning many things from various people, as she leads a rich and fulfilling life.

Since acceding to the Throne His Majesty has been extremely busy every day, including various ceremonies at the Imperial Palace. As I look back I am newly filled with deep respect for His Majesty the Emperor Emeritus, who until April this year and in his mid-eighties continued to engage in such important duties without pause or rest. Also, throughout the Heisei era Her Majesty the Empress Emerita fulfilled her duties as Empress, always by the side of His Majesty the Emperor Emeritus to offer her assistance. This year I was concerned when Her Majesty the Empress Emerita underwent surgery and I pray most sincerely that Their Majesties the Emperor Emeritus and the Empress Emerita will continue to take good care of their health and live long and healthy lives. I am also most profoundly grateful that since the abdication and accession they have watched over our progress so warmly.

I am truly appreciative of His Majesty’s constant care and attention for my health in the midst of his busy schedule. Constantly bearing in mind the importance of His Majesty’s duties and striving to further recover my health so that I can be of assistance at His Majesty’s side, I will seek to fulfil my duties as the Empress so that together with His Majesty I can do everything I can for the happiness of the people of Japan.

I would like to take this opportunity to express once again my deep and heartfelt appreciation, particularly this year, for the extraordinarily warm congratulatory sentiments that I have received from the people of Japan.

Opinion of the Doctors to the Imperial Household on the Occasion of the Birthday of Her Majesty the Empress