Press Conferences on the occasion of Her Majesty's Birthday (Written Answers) (2021)

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 2021

December 9, 2021

I am thankful for being able to celebrate another birthday this year. I would also like to express my heartfelt gratitude for the warm blessings received from many people on the occasion of my daughter Aiko’s Coming-of-Age earlier this month. I am relieved that the Coming-of-Age events held on the 5th were concluded without incident. The 20 years since Aiko’s birth seems like a long time ago, but at the same time, it is like a short moment. Her birthday brings back various memories, and it is deeply moving. At the same time, it is hard to believe that Aiko has grown from a little girl into an adult. I would like to thank the people from the bottom of my heart for warmly watching over Aiko’s growth. I hope that Aiko will continue to grow step by step while accumulating a range of experiences, and that she will manage to fulfill her duties as an adult member of the Imperial Family. I would be grateful if the people would continue affectionately to watch over Aiko.

Following on from last year, this was another year of adversity due to COVID-19. It was a heart-rending year in which many people lost their lives not only in Japan but also around the world. My deepest thoughts are with those coping with the unimaginable grief of suddenly losing loved ones to COVID-19. Furthermore, my sincere thoughts are with people who are currently suffering from COVID-19 and its aftereffects. At the same time, my concerns are with the long hardship and distress, both mentally and physically, experienced by the healthcare workers who have been involved in the treatment and other responses to COVID-19 since last year.

Fortunately, the number of infected and seriously ill people in Japan is decreasing thanks to many people working together and making daily efforts. Meanwhile, the situation still remains unpredictable due to the increasing number of cases overseas and the emergence of new variants that are of concern. I think this situation requires that we all continue to unite to take measures and make efforts as much as possible. I hope that further advances will be made in conquering COVID-19 in and outside of Japan, including research and development of vaccines and treatment methods, so that the people of Japan and the world can steadily overcome this challenge, even if it is only one step at a time.

The environment surrounding us has changed significantly with the COVID-19 pandemic. I can imagine this has been another year of numerous hardships for many people. I am especially pained that a large number of people face economic and social predicaments. It is reported that suicides last year increased for the first time in 11 years, with suicides among working women rising by around 30% and suicides among elementary, junior high, and high school students reaching a record high. I think this is precisely because of times like these, when it is difficult for people to have contact with each other and it is easy to feel loneliness. It is also heart-wrenching to see reports that the COVID-19 pandemic’s severe toll on socio-economic activities has pushed many people into various predicaments, including reduced income and the abandonment of higher education.

Sad and painful events, such as people taking their own lives, must be prevented in all possible ways. To ensure this, I hope that we will be a society where we can be considerate and support one another more than ever before, so that people can more easily consult those around them and visit nearby support centers.

This year marked ten years since the Great East Japan Earthquake. Looking back on the past decade may have brought renewed sorrow to many people. I, too, on numerous occasions recalled the challenging situation at the time of the earthquake. In marking ten years since the earthquake, I had an opportunity to view the progress of reconstruction in Iwate, Miyagi, and Fukushima Prefectures and talk with the affected people online. My heart pains for those who have still been unable to rebuild their life and for those who carry emotional scars that will never heal, even as the regions make progress with reconstruction and lay the foundation for their livelihood. The people in the affected areas will continue to be in the thoughts of His Majesty and mine.

Regrettably, this year once again witnessed torrential rain and other natural disasters in various places. In the torrential rains in July and August, record high rainfall was observed in a number of areas. Tragically, many people lost their lives or went missing, especially in Atami City, Shizuoka Prefecture. I would like to express my deepest condolences for those who lost their lives and my deepest sympathy to the bereaved families and those affected.

Disasters thought to be caused by climate change are increasing globally, making countermeasures ever more important. Under these circumstances, it is very significant that Dr. MANABE Syukuro, who developed climate models used to predict global warming, was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics this year. I am delighted that high acclaim has been given to Dr. Manabe’s research. This has helped to spread the awareness that global environmental issues concern the survival of future generations, and that the attitude and actions of every one of us living in the present will have a large impact on the future global environment. While in university, I did some studies in energy economics, and I also did work on environmental issues including climate change during my professional life prior to marriage. As such, the importance of climate change and global environmental issues are always in my thoughts.

The Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games were held in Japan this summer. The games were held amidst difficult challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, and I am sure that the participating athletes and all those involved faced great hardships. It is a relief that the games went off smoothly.

Watching both the Olympic and Paralympic Games on TV, it was impressive to see athletes giving their best in their events despite the restrictions in place due to COVID-19 pandemic, and to see athletes of different nationalities praising each other’s efforts. The Japanese athletes put on an outstanding performance, and I imagine many people shared in the excitement. I would like to pay tribute to the athletes who continued to work hard under the difficult circumstances of the spread of COVID-19, to the coaches and staff who supported them, and to the countless people involved, including the operational staff, volunteers, healthcare workers, and security personnel who helped make the games possible.

In the field of sports, I imagine that many people were given courage and hope by the performance of pitcher and hitter OHTANI Shohei, the second Japanese player to be selected in a unanimous vote as an MVP of the Major League Baseball this autumn.

As for myself, I am happy and grateful that, with the assistance of the head of the Imperial Cocoonery and others, I have successfully concluded the sericulture activities which I engaged in for the second time this year. This includes for my first time all activities from May to June, such as feeding silkworms with mulberry leaves, transferring silkworms into mountages, removing cocoons from mountages, cocoon cutting, and collection of silkworm seeds. I am looking forward to cultivating silkworms and working on sericulture again next year.

In September, we moved to the Fukiage Imperial Palace where Their Majesties the Emperor Emeritus and Empress Emerita long resided. While it was sad to leave Akasaka where we lived for many years, I am grateful that we were able to begin a new life soundly and smoothly in the rich natural environment of the Fukiage grounds. I would like to thank Their Majesties the Emperor Emeritus and Empress Emerita for affectionately watching over us during the renovation of the Fukiage Palace and until our move there. I would also like to express my gratitude to the numerous people who supported us in Akasaka and to everyone who helped us in making the move to the Fukiage Palace.

While I understand that the situation surrounding COVID-19 continues to make it difficult for Their Majesties the Emperor Emeritus and Empress Emerita to make excursions outside their residence, I sincerely hope they will take good care of themselves and enjoy healthy lives. I also hope that the renovation of the Sento Imperial Palace in Akasaka will proceed smoothly and that Their Majesties’ move will be realized at an agreeable timing. I would like to reiterate my gratitude to Their Majesties for continuing affectionately to watch over us and Aiko.

I am most grateful that His Majesty the Emperor remains healthy even as he continues to be busy despite the pandemic. I am also deeply grateful to His Majesty for his constant care and attention to my health. I will keep on trying to recover my health, so that I can continue to be of assistance to His Majesty at his side and fulfill my own duties.

This year, again, I would like to take this opportunity to express my deepest appreciation for the warm wishes that the people of Japan have always extended to me. Sincerely hoping once again that COVID-19 will be brought under full control, I earnestly hope that the people of Japan will remain united and overcome this difficult situation and that the day will come soon when all people can live with peace of mind.