Press Conference by His Imperial Highness Crown Prince Akishino on the Occasion of His Birthday (2021)
I would like to start by talking about the effects on the Imperial Family that my wife and I mentioned in our comments published on October 26th. There were various effects, but I feel that there are two main ones. The first was that, following the announcement that my elder daughter was to marry, I felt that it had effects also on other members of the Imperial Family, in various media. For example, there was coverage of how Their Majesties the Emperor and Empress felt about the effects, although I do not remember the details. And a clearer example was coverage in weekly magazines of what Her Majesty the Empress Emerita had said and what thoughts Her Majesty had about my elder daughter’s marriage. Although the Imperial Household Agency posted two or three times on its website denials explaining that Her Majesty the Empress Emerita never said such things and such thoughts never occurred to Her Majesty, and I myself never heard any such things from Her Majesty, coverage of this sort continued even after the denials were posted. I certainly think that this naturally weighed on Her Majesty. This is the first effect. The other effect is related to the three ceremonies, which would have been held under normal circumstances on the occasion of this marriage. It was my decision not to hold this time these three ceremonies, Nōsai-no-Gi (Ceremony of Betrothal), Kokki-no-Gi (Ceremony of Announcing the Date of the Wedding), and Judai-no-Gi (Ceremony of Sending an Emissary to the Bride on the Wedding Day). The three ceremonies are originally stipulated in the Decree for Imperial Family Relationships by Blood or Marriage. The Decree has been abolished, so it is not an absolute must to hold these three ceremonies, but they are customarily conducted. Under normal circumstances, I think that holding these three ceremonies would have been appropriate, but not holding them I think gave the impression that the three ceremonies are not so important. To repeat what I have said, I think that under normal circumstances holding the three ceremonies would have been appropriate. These are the effects that we wrote of in our comments, which are also connected to our subsequent apologetic feelings towards those people who have been upset by these effects.
What was the next part of the question?
On the official and private aspects.
The official and private aspects. Of the Imperial Family.
Yes, on the desirable role of the Imperial Family.
On the desirable role of the Imperial Family.
On the desirable role of the Imperial Family, I think it is basically, as His Majesty the Emperor Emeritus has said, to share in the joys and sorrows of the people and pray for their happiness as we fulfil our duties. Furthermore, of course, as the times are constantly changing, I think it is important that the Imperial Family should also be aligned with the changing times. Moreover, when we think about the official and private aspects, I think that the official aspect should normally be given priority over the private aspect. I think there are exceptions, of course, but the official aspect should take priority over the private aspect. On the other hand, when I think about how the series of questions just asked about my elder daughter’s marriage relates to these official and private aspects, well, I am not sure that these criteria of official and private aspects are precisely applicable to my elder daughter’s marriage. I think until her marriage, while she was a member of the Imperial Family, my elder daughter always gave priority to official matters over private matters. This includes her overseas visits. There have been some press comments that she has given priority to private rather than official matters. Even if she gave priority to getting married, which I think is a private matter, over official matters, four years have already passed since it was announced that my elder daughter was going to marry. If my daughter were to still continue to give priority to official matters over her marriage, then I think that would prevent her from getting married for 10 years or even 20 years. Therefore, I have some doubt whether the two categories of official and private are directly applicable here.
What was the third part of the question?
What is your opinion about the coverage in weekly magazines and postings on the internet that are considered to have affected the health of your elder daughter, Mako-san, who has been diagnosed with complex PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder).
Well, weekly magazines have word count constraints. Internet postings, on the other hand, have almost no word count constraints of that sort. So, it is better to think about the two separately. I think my elder daughter developed complex PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) probably from articles both in weekly magazines and on the internet. Although I myself do not read weekly magazines that much, when I read them, there is some fiction in them sometimes. On the other hand, they also contain opinions that are well worth paying attention to. Often, both of these elements are mixed together in the same article. So certainly they sometimes contain descriptions I find surprising, but this does not mean that I want to deny the whole article. On the other hand, I do not read internet postings and the like much either. Above all, as there is an enormous number of comments on every article, there simply isn’t enough time to read them all, and it would tire my eyes, so I don't read them, but they certainly include some rather unpleasant comments. As to the intentions behind those comments, I suppose the intention differs from writer to writer, but there are people these days who have been deeply hurt by that malicious slander on the internet, and there are also people who have taken their own lives because of it. I am talking about the internet here, but when it comes to malicious slander, that is, words which deeply hurt people, regardless of whether they are in weekly magazines or on the internet, I am of the opinion that such words are unacceptable.
That is all for this question.
On my unforgettable memories of my elder daughter, she and I have traveled together over rather longer periods abroad than in Japan, although I have not counted whether our overseas trips outnumber our domestic trips. In chronological order, my elder daughter and I have traveled first to the Republic of Madagascar, then to the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, and then to Hungary. Although all of these trips abroad were memorable, the trip to Madagascar, which was the longest trip, was most naturally unforgettable. It is probably 12.5 hours by car from Toliara (also known as Toliary, formerly Tuléar) to Morombe in Madagascar. During the drive, we observed things like the transitions in the types of vegetation. We came into contact with music and dancing at the destinations we visited. Also, we visited a place where there are gigantic baobab trees. We happened to discuss how enjoyable the trip was a few months ago, too.
What was the next part of the question?
Would you please tell us how you feel now about your elder daughter, Mako-san, starting her new life in the United States of America.
As the couple themselves decided to live in the United States of America, I think that is probably the best for them.
Would you please tell us what your impression was, and what you talked about, when you met Mr. Komuro Kei for the first time in a long time.
First, I refrain from giving an answer here as to what was talked about at the meeting. As for my impression, as the meeting was only around 20 minutes, I do not have any particular lasting impression. It was a very ordinary conversation.
Your Highness asked Mr. Komuro’s side for ‘a suitable response’, and ‘a response that becomes visible’, and Your Highness said ‘If the stage is reached at which they are actually going to get married, at that time, of course, I think it will be important to give a proper explanation of that kind of thing, including what happened up to that point’ (at your press conference last year), but what is your opinion about the series of responses that were made, including the form and substance of the press conference (that the couple held upon their marriage)?
Well, after the marriage registration was submitted on October 26th, a press conference was held, or should I say a press announcement was made, but I myself would have wanted it to have been held in an interactive format, and not in the unidirectional format that was used. My elder daughter had also initially intended until some while before to hold an interactive press conference, but I think it was understandably difficult to hold an interactive press conference, partly because my elder daughter had developed complex PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), from which she might have suffered some sort of attack during an interactive press conference. On the other hand, regarding the husband of my elder daughter, I said at my press conference last year that I thought it would be important to give a proper explanation of what happened up to that point if the stage were reached at which they were actually going to get married. Although this spring, the husband of my elder daughter published a document which can indeed be regarded as giving an explanation, I myself think that it would have been better if there had been the opportunity for my elder daughter’s husband in person to explain verbally about the matter and also to answer questions.
The first part of the question is what my family talked about over the period leading up to the marriage of my elder daughter.
What your family talked about.
Well, as the marriage of my elder daughter drew closer, she was to move to the United States of America upon marriage, after leaving my residence to live temporarily in Tokyo. So most naturally my elder daughter and I were both concerned about, for example, where to keep her belongings that she had kept in her room. Moreover, there are also books that I have lent her and other things, and therefore my elder daughter and I talked about what to do with these sorts of items. My elder daughter, for instance, cannot send all of her belongings to New York, but because some of the documents that she has kept include books related to the Nikkei (people of Japanese descent living overseas), which she read in preparing for her official overseas trips, she hoped that we would make use of those documents. So leading up to the marriage of my elder daughter, she and I discussed what to do with these sorts of items.
On the expectations you hold for Princess Kako’s future activities, and on your thoughts about marriage for her.
My younger daughter has been working at the Japanese Federation of the Deaf since this spring, starting in May, and she feels extremely grateful for the opportunity. I would be pleased if she could be of some help even in a small way by learning various things from her superiors. And I hope that she will also continue to perform every one of her other activities conscientiously.
On your thoughts about marriage for her.
About marriage, when that time comes, I would like to take plenty of time to discuss it with her.
About the choice of a high school for Prince Hisahito, (who will start high school next spring,) and how he is growing up, and so on.
Regarding the choice of a high school for my son, Hisahito, we are having discussions with him. And on how he is growing up, he is now a third grader at junior high school (15 years old), and like other third graders at junior high school, he has been sitting at his desk studying for noticeably longer than he was doing a year ago. He is spending his days in this way. Although not often, I sometimes see him sitting at his desk working out an answer, and that most naturally reminds me that he is a third grader at junior high school.
That is all for this question.
In addition to what I said earlier regarding official and private aspects, one supplementary point is that the procedure (for a marriage) also varies between male and female members of the Imperial Family. The marriage of any male member of the Imperial Family must pass the Imperial House Council, while the marriage of a female member does not require this process. So I think it also needs to be kept in mind that the nature of official and private aspects varies between male and female members of the Imperial Family.
COVID-19 has persistently continued from last year, with many in Japan also contracting it and dying from it. On the other hand, I have heard that medical treatments and so forth have become quite well established. Vaccinations have also progressed, and when medications also become widespread in due course, I think there is a possibility that we will enter an age of coexistence with COVID-19, and subsequently a post-COVID-19 age. Although I think that it will still take some time to reach a post-COVID-19 age, was your question on the role that the Imperial Family can fulfill also in this sort of period as well?
On the role that the Imperial Family can fulfill in this sort of period.
On the role the Imperial Family can fulfill. Speaking of what the Imperial Family can do in this sort of period, although I do not have an immediate answer right now, as I said in my answer to question 1, the role of the Imperial Family is basically to share in the joys and sorrows of the people and pray for their happiness at all times as we fulfill our duties. Furthermore, I think that the desirable role of the Imperial Family should also change so that it is aligned with the changing times. I think that the role will not be very different from how it has been until now.
What was the other part of the question?
Following your thoughts on the role that the Imperial Family can fulfill in this sort of period, your thoughts on a smaller number of Imperial Family members able to perform official activities after the marriage of your elder daughter, Mako-san.
Wasn’t there something before that?
Since the spread of COVID-19, Your Highness’ family has utilized online conferencing to maintain exchanges with the Japanese people. We are also now seeing gradual movement towards a post-COVID-19 society.
I see. Certainly, COVID-19 infections have substantially diminished right now, and the situation in Japan has stabilized, but until very recently, the fifth wave of COVID-19 in Japan was resulting in an enormous number of infections. Under such circumstances, I think that any events unavoidably had to be held virtually. On the other hand, however, depending on the COVID-19 infection situation, and taking into account the knowledge we have now gained, I think it is necessary to consider how to maintain exchanges with the people. I do not mean that we should do things exactly as they were done before, but there is a need to think about how I can meet the requests of those people who ask for visits and those who receive me at the sites I visit in line with the circumstances in each case. Of course, one can certainly hold conversations online and see some things through virtual visits, but naturally I think they are quite different from physical visits to see something for oneself and meet people in person. To the extent possible, I would like to physically visit places to carry out the activities assigned to me and hold in-person exchanges with the people. To repeat what I have said, I think that it is important to consider thoroughly what needs to be done to enable these things.
What was the next part of the question?
With the marriage of your elder daughter, Mako-san, there is a smaller number of Imperial Family members able to perform official activities. What are your thoughts on the way activities will be performed and on how the roles will be shared in the future? Would you please also tell us your thoughts, if you have any, on ensuring that there is an adequate number of Imperial Family members.
As there is a limited number of Imperial Family members able to perform official activities, I think all that can be done under the present circumstances is that those among us who are able to perform these activities should just do the best we can in performing them. Did you ask, however, about how the roles will be shared? Depending on how the roles are shared, it might enable some flexibility. For example, if what was in normal circumstances carried out by a couple together could be carried out by either of the couple, each carrying out separate activities, that would in the end have the effect of doubling the number of activities that the couple could carry out. I think that this way of doing things could be considered.
Was the last part of the question on ensuring that there is an adequate number of Imperial Family members?
Yes. On ensuring that there is an adequate number of Imperial Family members.
I cannot give an answer because this is a matter for the legal system.
As mentioned in the question, this year marks the tenth year since the Great East Japan Earthquake. The tenth year could be regarded as a milestone. On reconstruction, too, I have heard that it is in the final stages of completion. On the other hand, however, I have also heard that the nuclear-affected areas have recently entered the stage of full restoration and reconstruction. And there still remain issues such as care for the mental health of those people affected. As for myself, I think my last in-person visit to the affected area was in February last year. When I was walking around on that occasion, I happened to see several places where just the foundations of the structures remained, where there used to exist ordinary daily lives and structures on top of those foundations. This sight reminded me of how enormous the devastation of the Great East Japan Earthquake was. Therefore, I think reconstruction is still continuing, and in this sense, I wonder whether the tenth year can be regarded as a milestone. On the other hand, however, of course, it is important to have the disaster engraved in our recollections, and therefore I think it is necessary to remember the disaster properly on such milestone occasions as the 10th or the 20th year.
What was particularly notable for me was this year’s extreme weather. Even in Japan, torrential rainfall and intense flooding have caused severe damage for several years now in the summer. This year for example in July, there was damage caused by intense flooding centered on the Federal Republic of Germany, and by torrential rainfall also in Shanxi Province in the People’s Republic of China. The United States of America was affected by a heat wave and a drought, and if my memory is correct, the volume of water stored in the Pantanal (Wetland) in the Federative Republic of Brazil reduced as a result of a lack of rain during the rainy season. These natural disasters, natural phenomena and what is called climate change are very closely interconnected, and (the Working Group 1 contribution to) the Sixth Assessment Report (AR6) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change(IPCC) states that it is unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, ocean and land. This goes beyond (the Working Group 1 contribution to) the IPCC’s previous Fifth Assessment Report (AR5), which stated that it is extremely likely, with a probability of 95% or higher, that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming (since the mid-20th century). So I thought it was very notable this year that human activities, climate change, and disasters are now being linked together naturally also with one more thing, which is a loss of biodiversity. Moreover, the loss of biodiversity is said also to have an effect on the spread of infectious diseases. Declining biodiversity leads to an intensity (or reduced diversity) of what are called suitable hosts, and thereby probably causes increases in primarily arthropod-borne infections. On the other hand, the possibility of host diversity leading to decreased transmission and prevalence(, and subsequently decreased spillover to humans,) is called the dilution effect. It was most notable for me this year that all of these phenomena are now being linked together (as a result of improved understanding of them). Also related to climate change, Dr. Manabe Syukuro, from Japan, has been awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics 2021 in October. I think that it is extremely important to gain insights into climate change through the physical modeling of natural phenomena.
And on other news items, I think that young people made spectacular showings again this year. The Chopin (International) Piano Competition is held every 5 years, and in the most recent competition Mr. Sorita Kyohei won second prize, becoming the first Japanese pianist for around 50 years to win second place, and Ms. Kobayashi Aimi won fourth prize, which attracted news coverage. And Mr. Ohtani Shohei winning this year’s Most Valuable Player Award in the American League (Major League Baseball) was another focus of interest. At the Olympic Games, I have the impression that young athletes competed really well in skateboarding, too. There are various others as well, but these are all the news items that come to mind just at the moment.
That is all for this question.
Among the various coverage, some can be regarded as bashing. The reason for not responding each time to coverage of this sort is that, with an article of a given length, if one were to point out that one description (in the article) is inaccurate, for example, through a posting on the Imperial Household Agency’s website, I think that this could be interpreted as implying that the other points are all correct. On the other hand, I touched upon something close to this earlier when I said that both fiction and what are correct descriptions are mixed together in the same article. Of course, it would be possible to point out that one description in an article is inaccurate, but this could be interpreted as implying that the other points are all correct. I think that if one were to explain thoroughly, one would really need to go through every individual description in the article and indicate which ones are correct and which are inaccurate. But I think that would require enormous work and effort. On the other hand, I think that if one were to counter articles of the sort you have mentioned, it would naturally require setting certain thresholds that would need to be considered, so that, for example, one would make a response or issue a statement when the thresholds were crossed. I think it is necessary to work on setting thresholds of this type. As you said, coverage like this will probably continue in the future. So I think it is necessary to consider in the future some sort of thresholds along the lines I have just mentioned, also consulting the Imperial Household Agency.
First, on not conducting the three ceremonies, I said at past press conferences that there needed to be a suitable response, and I said that I thought it would also be important to give a proper explanation of what happened (up to that point if the stage were reached at which they were actually going to get married) and that (those) responses needed to become visible, although I do not remember how I phrased it. And I said that the Ceremony (of Betrothal) could not be performed unless the state of the matter were such that many people found the situation acceptable and celebrated it. The reason why I decided not to hold the three ceremonies this time was, of course, because first, the trouble (the financial trouble involving Mr. Komuro’s mother) referred to had not yet been solved, and secondly, because of the quite long document that the husband of my elder daughter published this spring. Although I think that the document can indeed be regarded as giving an explanation, I wonder how many people would understand that document by skimming through it. Of course, you would understand it if you read it carefully, but if you only skimmed through it, I think that document would be hard to understand. This was my own judgement, but in my personal opinion, I felt that document would not immediately enable everyone to find the situation understandable. That is why I decided not to hold the three ceremonies.
What was the next part of the question?
On how you felt as Mako-san’s father when you saw her off on the morning of October 26th, having got married in the way she did.
Well, how I felt? I felt a wish that she will enjoy good health and be in good spirits. On her departure, I said this to her but it was all drowned out by the sound of helicopters (flying above). My elder daughter also said something, but in the end I could not hear anything she said. I said previously that I hoped my daughters could stay (physically) close by, but these days it is possible to be quite close wherever in the world one may be. I talked about remote conferencing earlier, but I can communicate whenever I want to and we can see each other’s faces as well.
On participation in Imperial events, I am not in a position to comment. It is entirely a matter for the consideration of His Majesty the Emperor. Is there another question? Is this an adequate answer to your question?
That is fine, thank you. I have the impression that your response to the first question, about what effects this marriage will have in the future, did not fully address the question. Would you please tell us if you have any further thoughts?
There was a question earlier on media coverage, but I think it is quite difficult to tell the effects in the future, and all I can say now is what I can anticipate at the present time. So of course, I have had to limit my comments to what I can anticipate.