the Occasion of Their Majesties' 50th Wedding Anniversary

Responses by Their Majesties The Emperor and Empress of Japan on the Occasion of Their Majesties' 50th Wedding Anniversary.
Date:April 8, 2009
Imperial Palace, Tokyo

Question 1
These questions are addressed to both Your Majesties. In the fifty years since the day of Your wedding, Japan experienced many things, from a period of rapid economic growth to the collapse of the bubble economy, as well as a number of natural disasters and economic downturns, greatly changing social conditions and people's sense of values. Throughout all this, Your Majesties have continued to bring a new breeze in to the Imperial Family. When Your Majesties look back over the fifty years that You have spent together as a couple, first as the Crown Prince and Crown Princess, then as the Emperor and Empress, please tell us Your thoughts on the role of the new Imperial Family befitting our times, which You have together built over the years, the traditions of the Imperial Family that You have preserved, and how You are planning to pass this on to the next generation.
Response by His Majesty

As we come to greet the 50th anniversary of our marriage, it has brought me true joy that so many people have congratulated us and I am deeply appreciative of that. Still, it is with a heavy heart that I receive these felicitations amidst the prevailing severe economic situation that is greatly affecting the lives of the people.

Looking back, the time when we were married was the time when Japan was rising as a nation that values freedom and peace under the Constitution of Japan after the devastations of a war which claimed the lives of 3.1 million of our people. Our country had joined the United Nations, our industry was developing, and our people were just beginning to enjoy a better standard of living. Although further development of our industry brought about greater abundance in the time that followed, environmental pollution worsened and had a serious impact on the health of our people. Moreover, urbanization and the contamination of our seas and rivers made nature, long beloved by our people, something that became distant from people's daily lives. The return to Japan of Ogasawara village in 1968 and then the return of Okinawa Prefecture in 1972 were two most important events for Japan in the years after our marriage. Both of these regions saw the loss of many lives on both the Japanese and American sides during the severe battles that took place, and in particular, in Okinawa Prefecture, many of the island residents perished as the war swept over them. This was extremely unfortunate and regrettable. Turning our eyes to the world beyond Japan, it was after entering the Heisei era(*1) that the Soviet Union collapsed, and there were hopes that a more transparent and peaceful world would emerge, but conflicts continue to erupt in areas across the globe and even now many lives are being lost. Today, in Japan, thanks to the efforts of the people, the environment in our cities and elsewhere has improved greatly and our natural environment has improved so much so that the oriental stork and Japanese crested ibis can be released to the wild(*2). However, across the country, our society is aging and we are facing a severe situation. It has become more and more important for people to cooperate with each other and support our society. The Empress and I have spent these years together with this changing face of Japan. I cannot help but feel once again that many things have happened in these fifty years.

It has brought me joy that since our marriage the Empress has always understood the significance of my position and official duties, and in our family life, as she stood by me, she has been very devoted to the members of my family beginning with Emperor Showa. The Empress always had a place in her heart for my elder sister, Mrs. Takatsukasa, Head Priestess of Ise Shrine, who sadly became a widow at a young age, and we often spent summers with her in Nasu, Karuizawa, and Lake Hamana. My sister was not one to show her feelings to others, but Emperor Showa once said that he heard from my sister that she had spent a truly enjoyable time with us and he asked what we had done together. The Empress has no elder sisters and when she and I were married, she was very glad to gain an elder sister and, perhaps this could be one of the reasons why she had invited my sister to join us. Yet, even now, I can remember how happy Emperor Showa seemed when talking about this. The Empress and I grew up in a different environment and in particular, since I did not experience an ordinary family life, I think I could not always be sufficiently considerate of the Empress' situation, Furthermore, I am sure that there must have been many times when she felt at a loss living among so many staffs at home. Still, taking all matters calmly in her stride, the Empress has always been a great support for me, first when I was Crown Prince, and subsequently as Emperor, in fulfilling my duties.

As for the question of "this new Imperial Family befitting our times," since ascending to the throne, I have often thought back to the path traveled by Emperor Showa and other past Emperors. Keeping firmly implanted in my mind the stipulation of the Constitution of Japan that "the Emperor shall be the symbol of the State and of the Unity of the People," I have striven to meet the expectations of the people. How that symbol should be is a question that is never far from my mind, and to this day, I am still seeking an appropriate answer. In fact, when seen from our long history of Emperors, and one compares the way the Emperor was stipulated in the Constitution of the Empire of Japan with the way the Emperor is stipulated in the current Constitution of Japan, I consider that the latter is more in line with the traditional pattern of the Emperors(*3).

As for the question about the traditions of the Imperial Family that we have preserved, I have carried on almost all of those which were passed down to me by Emperor Showa and have preserved them. Amongst these, there are traditional rituals that have been passed down from long ago such as the Niinamesai(*4), as well as the transplanting of the rice which was initiated by Emperor Showa. I think it is important to treasure and preserve intact the form of ancient traditions like the Niinamesai, but with those activities like the transplanting of rice which was newly initiated, I think that it is more important to focus on the significance rather than the form of the act itself. That is why, currently, in addition to transplanting the rice and reaping the rice crop, I have initiated the practice of sowing by hand seed-rice harvested the previous year. The practice of inviting to tea the recipients and others of the Japan Academy Prize and the Japan Art Academy Award is one example of an instance in which the Empress and I discussed with officials concerned so that we could change the format to allow us to speak with all of the invited guests. Although it is only for a brief moment, this change has given us the opportunity to speak directly to all of the recipients and the new members, making the event something that the Empress and I also get to enjoy.

As for the question of how to pass on to the next generation the traditions of the Imperial Family, I spoke just now of how I am constantly seeking to find what the ideal role of the Emperor should be. I think it is important that the next generation also bear that in mind and I intend to leave it to the next generation to decide exactly what they will do about each specific activity.

* Notice1 Heisei is the name of the current era of Japan which started on January 8, 1989, the first day after Emperor Akihito ascended to the throne on the death of Emperor Showa. The year of 2009 is the 21st year of Heisei.
* Notice2 In Japan wild Japanese crested ibises disappeared in 1981. In 1999 then President Jiang Zeming of China during his state visit donated three Japanese crested ibises to Japan. Now the offspring of these three birds have grown and 10 of them were released into the wild in September, 2008.
In Japan wild oriental storks became extinct in 1971. An artificial breeding program was initiated after six storks were presented from the Khabarovsk region of Russia in 1985. In 2005, five storks were released into the wild and later in 2007 the offspring of these storks were observed in the wild.
* Notice3 The Constitution of the Empire of Japan was promulgated in 1889, and was replaced by the current Constitution of Japan in 1946.
* Notice4 Niinamesai is the most important ritual ceremony of the year held at the Imperial Palace. It is traditionally held on November 23 each year when the Emperor himself makes an offering of the first grain harvest of the year to the gods and partakes the offering as a token of his gratitude for the year's harvest.

Response by Her Majesty

Fifty years ago when I left an ordinary family to join the new environment of the Imperial Family, my heart was filled with uncertainty and anxiety. For me to be here today by His Majesty's side, welcoming our golden wedding anniversary, truly seems to be as if in a dream.

Ever since our marriage and right up to this very day, His Majesty has always been deeply aware of his position. He has continued to seek the role He should play, as a future symbol of the nation when He was the Crown Prince, and later when He became the Emperor, as the symbol of the nation and the unity of the people of Japan. While making such efforts, His Majesty's feelings for the nation and our people have deepened together with the passage of time, and I believe that He always feels close to what is happening in the country and shares the joys and sorrows of the people.

The path of fifty years has been long and at times challenging, but as His Majesty has always sought the right path with sincerity and shown me the way, I have been able to walk together with His Majesty up to this very day. My heart is filled with joy that I have been able to live in the same age together with His Majesty and I would also like to express my gratitude to the many people who have helped me grow, watched over me, and given me encouragement as I have come this far.

In your question, you mention "the Imperial Family," "tradition" and "the passing of tradition to the next generation." Since ascending to the throne, His Majesty has taken over and performed almost all the traditional rituals and activities of the Imperial Household from the time of Emperor Showa. While thus trying to carry on the past tradition of the Imperial Family, His Majesty has always kept a keen realization that we should at the same time live in "the current times." He has followed closely the lives of the people throughout the country, has kept a close interest in what is happening "here and now," and in that way I believe he has come to build an age which is now the Heisei.

Living with traditions is at times difficult, but we sometimes realize how strong and rich a nation, society or families can be because of traditions. On the other hand, traditions that remain only in form can stand in the way of social progress and there are instances in which old customs, continued in the name of tradition, can cause people to suffer. I do not like this word to be used lightly.

Tradition has many forms and sides; there are traditions that are apparent and there are traditions that are hidden within the heart. There are times when both are carried on together, while there are times when just one, the outer or inner aspect, has been handed down. Although the Japanese players who distinguished themselves in the World Baseball Classic did not wear traditional armor, commit ritual suicide, or speak in archaic Japanese, each one fought with beauty and strength, with something of the samurai spirit in them.

As His Majesty has said, the question of tradition is something that is both carried on from the previous generation and then entrusted to the next generation. I hope that the next generation of the Imperial Family, and the ones that will come even after them, will keep thinking over this matter, deepening their understanding of the Imperial tradition and also of issues that matter with tradition and society.

Question 2
These questions are addressed to both Your Majesties. From the day that Your Majesties met, we imagine that You have discussed many things together and shared many thoughts. Various episodes have already been reported, but would His Majesty mind telling us what His words of proposal to Her Majesty were? And would Her Majesty tell us what response She gave to His Majesty when accepting His proposal? At the press conference held just before Your Majesties' silver wedding anniversary, His Majesty The Emperor said that He would like to present a "Prize for Best Effort" to Her Majesty, and Her Majesty The Empress likewise a "Citation of Appreciation and Gratitude" to His Majesty. If Your Majesties were to send each other a new message now, how would You word it? There is so much that we would like to hear about, such as the joys, the hardships, the sadness, and the impressive memories you keep in your married life, the moments when You were glad you were married and what You think are the keys to a good marriage. We would appreciate it if You could tell us what has been most memorable in the fifty years that You have spent together, including some special episodes.
Response by His Majesty

As for the exact words that I used to propose marriage, I recall that we spoke over the telephone many times before the Empress finally accepted. I would not say that it was anything as simple as a one-line proposal. During our many telephone conversations, I told her that in order for me to carry out my duties as Crown Prince, I really needed someone who could understand the meaning and the significance of those duties and would support me. I was truly happy when she accepted my proposal.

If there is something that I would like to present to the Empress on the occasion of our 50th wedding anniversary, it would, this time, be a Citation of Appreciation and Gratitude. Although the Empress has insisted that a Prize for Best Effort, which I awarded her last time, is what she would like to have again, I think this Citation of Appreciation and Gratitude is in praise of the efforts she has continued to make right up to this very day. She has truly made great efforts over these fifty years. I know that during these years there have been many sad times and many difficult times, but the Empress has borne these well with fortitude.

As for your question about what has brought us joy as a married couple, I think that first and foremost it is that we have both been able to reach this 50th wedding anniversary in good health. I think that it has been a joy for us to be able to talk together about everything, including how we perform our respective roles. The Empress is a serious person, but she can also be funny and she is a lot of fun. I think that there has always been laughter in our home. The Empress is fond of trees and flowers, and we enjoy our early morning walks together in the Imperial Palace Grounds. I have always been fond of trees, but, after our marriage, I have become interested in flowers as well.

As I continue
My talks with her,
I become aware
That, in my heart,
A window is opening.

This is a poem that I composed when we were engaged albeit unofficially, and I believe that I am what I am today as a result of many things I have absorbed since opening that window called marriage. I am greeting our 50th wedding anniversary with true feelings of appreciation and gratitude.

Finally, I should like to express my deep appreciation to all those people who have supported the Empress and Myself over the fifty years of our marriage.
Response by Her Majesty

As there are so many questions, I am afraid I may not be able to respond to all of them. More than anything, our engagement was such "a long, long time ago," more than fifty years ago, that I cannot remember the exact words of His Majesty's proposal. As for the same question we were asked just before our silver wedding anniversary, I would like to respond this time again with the same answer and offer Him a Citation of Appreciation and Gratitude. I feel that it is somehow not enough. Still, a Citation of Appreciation and Gratitude with all my heart.

Next, you asked about "the joys we experienced as a married couple." I am not sure if this is the way to answer your question, but I recall a time a year or two after we were married, when His Majesty invited me for a walk. The gardens within the Akasaka Palace were full of spider webs, and to brush away the spider webs along the paths, His Majesty cut off two thin bamboo stalks still with their leaves attached-I think they may have been kanchiku or marbled bamboo-and after aligning the two stalks so that he could compare them, His Majesty cut one of them a little shorter and handed it to me. I suppose that His Majesty thought that a lighter one than His would be easier for me to carry. Even now when I think back to that time, my heart glows with warmth.

After the demise of Emperor Showa, despite His busy schedule, His Majesty was most concerned about the Empress Dowager and saw to it that consideration was given to various matters. At the same time, His Majesty paid careful attention to what He could do to complete the research that was left unfinished by Emperor Showa and have it published. His Majesty also looked into whether there were institutions to which the many biological specimens left behind by Emperor Showa could be properly cared for so that they would not be lost as a collection. As a result of His Majesty's consideration, The Flora of the Imperial Palace was published at the end of 1989 and The Hydroids of Sagami Bay II, in 1995. In 1992, the microscope that had been used by Emperor Showa and his many specimens were entrusted for safekeeping to the National Museum of Nature and Science and then in 1995, his ornithological specimens were also handed to the Yamashina Institute for Ornithology. In response to your question of "the impressive memories" these are the ones that come up to my mind.

As to the difficult question regarding "the moments when you were glad you were married," on the condition that you will please not ask for further "special episodes" in the future, I shall tell you about one memory that is in itself truly very small. It was in the spring just as "kobushi", small magnolia flowers, were in bloom and I was standing beneath the tree, wondering which branch to cut, when His Majesty lowered one branch just to my eye level and there, to my joy, was a lovely flower exactly as the one I had been hoping to find. I was so happy that I later composed a poem about it. The poem is included in the poetry collection of 1973, but this having been said, this certainly does not mean that I hadn't felt happy that we were married until then.

During these fifty years, His Majesty has always been aware of his position both as Crown Prince and Emperor while, at the same time, giving us, His family, much love and affection. Above all, that His Majesty is sincere, modest, and always broad-minded has been my mainstay, giving me support during the fifty years I have spent with Him.

Related Question
We would like to extend our felicitations on Your Majesties' 50th wedding anniversary. On April 10, Your Majesties will hold a tea for couples who are celebrating their 50th year of marriage. We have heard that it was Your Majesties' idea to hold this gathering. Would you please share with us how this event came to be?
Response by His Majesty

The thought of inviting 100 couples who will be celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary to a tea came from both of us, and of course, it will be realized thanks to the various efforts of the Chief Steward of the Imperial Household Agency and others. As I mentioned earlier, many things have happened in the 50 years since we were married. Around the time when the Empress and I were married, although people's lives were not necessarily rich, everyone was filled with hope and looking forward to the future. The time before this, there was the war and these people must have spent their youth under severe wartime conditions. The couples who have been married for 50 years have lived through many events and share similar experiences. It is meaningful for both the Empress and Myself, on our 50th anniversary, to invite other people who are also celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary, to a tea so that they may share their experiences with each other. I hope that everyone will have an enjoyable time.
Response by Her Majesty

I think His Majesty has said everything. I am also very much looking forward to this tea.

provisional translation