Japan’s Emperor turns 62, reflects on key events

Courtesy of The Imperial Household Agency.
The Emperor talks to the Empress about a vase depicting a bugaku dance on Feb. 10 in the Imperial Palace.

Ahead of his 62nd birthday on Wednesday, the Emperor recently expressed his thoughts to the media at the Imperial Palace, speaking on matters including the lack of marriage ceremonies for Mako Komuro, the eldest daughter of Crown Prince Akishino and Crown Princess Kiko.

“I feel sorry for causing so much concern to so many people,” the Emperor said.

Engagement and other ceremonies related to Komuro’s marriage were not held at the discretion of the Akishino family, while other events traditionally carried out at the Imperial Palace did not take place at the discretion of the Emperor. The Emperor said these decisions were based on the fact that there were various opinions about the marriage.

He said the basis of Imperial activities is to share the joys and sorrows of the people and fulfill the family’s responsibilities in response to social changes. “A relationship of trust is built when every member of the Imperial family sincerely faces these roles through heart-to-heart exchanges with the people,” the Emperor said.

Regarding magazine articles and online posts about Komuro that are said to have contributed to her developing complex post-traumatic stress disorder, the Emperor said freedom of expression should be respected. However, he also said, “We must always keep in mind that expressing an opinion to others can hurt their feelings and position.”

He said he hopes “a tolerant society is formed with mutual respect” by being considerate of others’ situations.

The Emperor’s daughter, Princess Aiko, turned 20 in December.

“I was deeply moved by her becoming an adult,” he said. “As an adult member of the Imperial family, I want her to carry out each of her duties with care and gratitude.”

Amid the pandemic, which has kept people from interacting with each other, the Emperor said, “I hope this will be a year in which all of us cherish mutual connections while keeping the fire of hope alive in our hearts and support each other beyond national and regional boundaries.”

Asked to pick one of the most memorable events of the past year, the Emperor chose the interaction among different countries’ athletes at the Tokyo and Beijing Games.

“Although there are still various tensions between countries, I hope that people-to-people exchanges will transcend national and regional boundaries and lead to a peaceful world with mutual recognition,” he said.

Okinawa will mark the 50th anniversary of its return to Japan in May.

“I want to take a fresh look at the path that Okinawa has taken, and put my heart and soul into the land and the people of Okinawa,” the Emperor said.

Due to the pandemic, the general public was not admitted to the Imperial Palace grounds on Wednesday to celebrate the Emperor’s birthday.