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2018-11-03

ress Conferences on the occasion of Her Majesty's Birthday (Written Answers) (2018)

Press Conferences on the occasion of Her Majesty's Birthday (Written Answers) (2018)

Her Majesty the Empress's Answers to Questions by the Press on the Occasion of Her 84th Birthday 2018, and the Activities of Her Majesty the Empress over the Past Year

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

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

Questions by the Press on the Occasion of Her Majesty's 84th Birthday 2018

Question:

We have once again observed various incidences over the past year, from torrential rains in western Japan to an earthquake in Hokkaido. As this is the last year in which Your Majesty celebrates Your birthday in Your current status as Empress, would You tell us Your thoughts as His Majesty the Emperor’s abdication approaches in a little more than six months?

Answer

Over the past year, between my last birthday and today, Japan has been fraught with many natural disasters, from the heavy snowfall in the beginning of this year to earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and torrential rains. Around the world, too, there were similar disasters plus forest fires induced by heatwaves and hurricanes, inflicting heavy damage. It is sad but true that we must accustom ourselves to words that we would have never known if it were not for these disasters, such as “backwater” and “sobyo” (dragging anchor). I mourn with all my heart for the people who lost their lives to disasters across Japan and hope I can share, even in a small way, some of the sorrow of those left behind. I pray that peaceful daily life will return to the areas affected by those disasters as soon as possible and that the victims will be able to make it through the approaching colder months without a toll on their health.

Each time I visit these disaster-afflicted areas, I am always struck by the composed perseverance of the victims, as well as by how the children are bravely living out what must be greatly trying experiences for each of them. I would also like to express our profound respect for and appreciation to all those who devote themselves around the clock to relief efforts, even in the face of severe damage and daunting difficulties, so that they may save as many lives as possible.

His Majesty’s 30 years of dedication to His work as Emperor will come to a closure in about six more months. For 30 years, His Majesty has devoted Himself to His duties with “all His strength and all His heart.” However, when He realized that advancing age was making it difficult for Him to exert “all His strength,” His Majesty conveyed those thoughts to the government and to the people of Japan. I am confident that, from May of next year, the Crown Prince will serve the duties of Emperor with his whole heart, just as His Majesty has done.

With His abdication, His Majesty will withdraw from all the official duties that He has performed over the years, but I am sure He will continue as always to pray for our country and our people. Together with His Majesty, I, too, shall keep praying for the good of our country and our people, and for peace in the new era that the Crown Prince and Crown Princess will be building together in the future.

I was 24 years old when I was asked to enter this path, a path that I could never ever have imagined. Though I was filled with a great sense of uncertainty, it was my feeling of deep awe for His Majesty’s unwavering determination towards His duty that made me finally choose this path. Looking back on the almost 60 years, from the day of our wedding until today, His Majesty has always stood by the words that He spoke to me that day: that His duties required of Him in His role are the utmost priority at all times and that personal matters took second place. And that is exactly how He has lived these nearly 60 years. At His side, I saw how, as He performed each of His duties, His Majesty gradually deepened His trust and devotion towards our country and our people. I also kept on sensing that He was endeavoring all these years to seek how to live as a “symbol” (as a future “symbol” in His days as Crown Prince), a role stipulated in the new Constitution. I now recall with profound emotion those months and years I spent by His side.

Living as Crown Princess and later Empress was not an easy one for me by any means. While I performed the duties that I was assigned, each time I observed something I have to take heed, I tried to take note of those things in my mind—it seems that 60 years went by just as I continued to repeat doing this each day. In my student days, the President of my university often told us: “Experience is not enough. You must reflect on what you have experienced.” How often have I reminded myself of those words. In the course of the many years, I have learned immeasurably from the bearings of the late Emperor Showa and the late Empress Kojun, while His Majesty has always led me and shown me the way, at times with strictness but always with boundless warmth and generosity. Our three children were all so very dear and sweet children, and though parenting was a constant battle against sleep, it was also always a source of immense joy. I am deeply grateful to everyone who has supported me in my growth through the years.

After His Majesty’s abdication, I hope to be able to spend the days peacefully by His side while watching over His health. As I do so, I would like to continue as before to observe developments both in Japan and around the world with care and concern. For instance, issues like the abduction of Japanese nationals, the incidents which date back to when His Majesty and I were young, are not something that will leave our minds just because the Heisei era comes to an end. We shall continue to be thinking of the families of the abduction victims.

In time, we will be moving to the current Crown Prince’s Residence, which will then be renamed the Sento Residence. This was our home for about 30 years, and there is a room there with a window with a view of the setting sun, from which I often watched the beautiful sunset in my young days. It is also where all our three children grew up, and I imagine that moving back there will bring back many fond memories of those days.

Before settling in Akasaka, however, we will be living for some time in the former residence of Prince Takamatsu in Takanawa. Last year, we visited the site for the first time in many years. It was kept so clean, despite the years that have elapsed since the passing of both Prince and Princess Takamatsu, and I was deeply moved to learn that former assistants charged with its upkeep, a husband and wife, have been diligently taking care of the place. His Majesty and I have been talking about keeping modifications to a minimum when we move there, preserving the residence as it was in the days of the prince’s residence.

These days I am often asked if there is anything that I am thinking of doing once I no longer have official duties to attend to. I have many books that I now keep on my bookshelves in the hope of reading one day but have not gotten around to doing so, and I am glad to think that I shall be able to take the time to read those books then. So far, I have done my best to stay away from detective novels because I tend to get absorbed in them once I start reading, but I will no longer have to worry about having them near me. There are two or three P.G. Wodehouse “Jeeves” books waiting for me.

I am also hoping to find a good plot somewhere in the spacious garden in Akasaka where I can grow Oriental melons. Soon after moving here into the Imperial Residence, I was struck by nostalgia on seeing a few Oriental melons growing in a tiny vegetable patch no larger than a tatami mat near His Majesty’s rice paddy. When I asked His Majesty if I could take one, He replied with a most serious expression that I could not, as those melons were to be presented to the gods on the day of the O-harai ceremony held in June. I had come close to stepping into a very special melon garden(1). Ever since then, I have wanted to one day try growing those Oriental melons in my special plot with my own hands.

I am comforted in the knowledge that His Majesty, who will soon be turning 85, having fulfilled His duties first as Crown Prince and then as Emperor for many years, will be able to spend the coming days in the rich natural environment of Akasaka, which I hope will help soothe the fatigue which has accumulated over the years.

I wonder how Akasaka is like now, a place which we left many years ago and which is very dear to us. After His Majesty and I move back there, we will walk around to see whether Japanese dandelions(2) are still growing there and whether the Japanese honeybees(3) are still inhabiting the grounds as I have always been concerned about the decreasing number of those bees. We hope to plant trees together, like the inu-biwa, Ficus erecta, the favorite fruit of Japanese raccoon dogs, a subject of much interest to His Majesty(4). Doing this and that, I hope that His Majesty and I will be able to spend our remaining days living quietly, with a sense of joy and gratitude.

Notes

(1) “stepping into a very special melon garden” refers to the well-known saying, “Don’t put on your shoes in the melon garden.” If you bend down to put on your shoes in the melon garden, people may think you are stealing the melons, so the saying means, “Don’t do things that would invite suspicion.”

(2) Japanese dandelions are decreasing in number because of the proliferation of non-native species.

(3) Japanese honeybees are decreasing in number due to multiple factors.

(4) His Majesty the Emperor has written two scholarly papers on the eating habits of Japanese raccoon dogs living on the Imperial Palace Grounds.

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

Portraits

Videos

Activities of Her Majesty the Empress over the Past Year

Today Her Majesty the Empress celebrated Her 84th birthday.

Over the past year, Her Majesty has not always been in perfect health. In addition to the chronic pain caused by cervical spondylotic radiculopathy that has ailed Her for years, She has occasionally been experiencing pain in Her legs since around the beginning of this year, and since October 2, Her Majesty has also shown symptoms of a cold such as coughing and slight fever, with the coughing persisting for more than two weeks. However, in spite of Her own health problems, Her Majesty has continued to watch over and care for His Majesty’s health by His side to support His Majesty in His determination to fulfill each and every one of His duties until His abdication at the end of April 2019, while carrying out, with all Her heart, the final round of duties in Her capacity as Empress on 330 occasions.

In addition to the official engagements, Her Majesty met the members of the Palace voluntary workforce and voluntary helpers at the Kashiko Dokoro (Palace Sanctuary) who serve at the ritual ceremonies of the Imperial Palace and thanked them for their services. She met a total of approximately 11,500 persons on 70 occasions, which are not counted in the official duties.

This year again, as Japan was struck by many natural disasters, from typhoons and torrential rains to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, Her Majesty, together with His Majesty, made a number of visits to the areas struck by the disasters, to comfort those affected by the disasters and together with the families of the deceased prayed for the victims.

In October last year, ahead of Their attendance at the 37th National Convention for the Development of an Abundantly Productive Sea in Fukuoka Prefecture, Their Majesties visited the areas in Fukuoka and Oita prefectures where the torrential rains that hit northern Kyushu in July the same year resulted in many casualties and forced numerous people to evacuate their homes. In both Fukuoka and Oita, after hearing from the governors about the status of damage, They met with and extended Their sympathies to the people affected by the disaster. In November, before visiting a number of remote islands in Kagoshima Prefecture, Their Majesties received a briefing at Kagoshima Airport from the governor, who informed Their Majesties about the May 2015 eruption on Kuchi-no-erabu-jima island and the status of recovery. Their Majesties then flew to Yakushima, where all the residents of Kuchi-no-erabu-jima had temporarily evacuated at the time. There They talked with many residents of Kuchi-no-erabu-jima who had come from their island to greet Their Majesties and consoled them for their hardships. On the occasion of the 69th National Arbor Day Festival held in June in Minami-soma, Fukushima Prefecture, Their Majesties travelled a long distance by car, and on the first day of the visit, They met and conversed with residents of the Kita-yoshima apartment complex, a post-disaster public housing project built by the prefecture. On the second day, at the Shidoke Village Centre, Their Majesties paid Their respects at a monument to the victims of the tsunami that followed the Great East Japan Earthquake. On the third day, despite the poor weather, Their Majesties laid flowers at a cenotaph to the victims of the earthquake in Soma, Fukushima Prefecture. In September, Their Majesties took two separate day trips to Okayama, Ehime, and Hiroshima prefectures, all of which sustained extensive damage from the torrential rains in July.

As for regional visits, on the occasion of Their trip to Fukuoka Prefecture to attend the 37th National Convention for the Development of an Abundantly Productive Sea, Their Majesties visited the shrines of Munakata Taisha and toured the Yaskawa Innovation Centre and Kitakyushu Eco-Town Centre. While the ceremonies and events of the National Convention were held as scheduled, the welcome ceremony at sea and the releasing of fish, which were to take place at Kanesaki fishing port with Their Majesties in attendance, were canceled due to inclement weather.

In November, Their Majesties took a three-day trip to the islands of Yakushima, Oki-no-erabu-jima, and Yoron-jima in Kagoshima Prefecture. On the second day, They made a day trip from Oki-no-erabu-jima to Yoron-jima, where They viewed Yurigahama, a sandbar that appears off the island’s coast, and the Yoron Jugoya Dance, which has been designated as an important intangible folk cultural property of Japan. On the final day, which was spent on Oki-no-erabu-jima, Their Majesties observed the cultivation of Easter lilies (Lilium longiflorum), a plant endemic to the island, at the floriculture field in the town of China-cho, and brown sugar production by the children of Kunigami Elementary School in the town of Wadomari-cho. The three-day trip covered a total distance of 3,273 kilometres.

In the same month, at the end of November, Their Majesties accompanied His Royal Highness Grand Duke Henri of Luxembourg, who was visiting Japan as a state guest, and Her Royal Highness Princess Alexandra to the cities of Tsuchiura and Tsukuba in Ibaraki Prefecture. In Tsuchiura They were welcomed by a choir performance by elementary school children and Kijo Daiko drumming by the citizens. In Tsukuba, They visited the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s Tsukuba Space Centre and toured the facilities. In March, Their Majesties made a three-day trip to Okinawa Prefecture. After paying Their respects at the Okinawa Prefecture Peace Memorial Hall, They laid flowers and prayed at the National War Dead Peace Mausoleum. On the second day They took a day trip from the main island of Okinawa to Yonaguni-jima island, where They saw the Yonaguni horse, an endangered Japanese breed of small horses native to Yonaguni-jima island, and viewed Yonaguni-san, one of the world’s largest moths, and bo odori (stick dance), a traditional dance. They also visited the Yonaguni-cho fisheries cooperative and, at Irizaki, saw Japan’s westernmost monument. On the final day, Their Majesties watched a karate demonstration at the Okinawa Karate Kaikan.

On the occasion of the 69th National Arbor Day Festival held in June in Minami-soma, Fukushima Prefecture, in addition to viewing the status of recovery from the Great East Japan Earthquake and paying Their respects at a monument to the victims, Their Majesties visited a fisheries cooperative in Soma and the Yuji Koseki Memorial Hall. The total distance by car over the three-day trip came to 280 kilometres, and on the third day, Her Majesty developed a fever owing to the strain of long-distance travel. However, in spite of a fever in the morning, Her Majesty completed the entire itinerary as scheduled.

In August, Their Majesties visited Hokkaido for three days. On Their first day They visited a farm where mentally disabled persons work. On the second day, They made a day trip to visit the island of Rishiri-to, where They viewed a sea urchin seed production centre and Otatomari Swamp, strolled along the island’s Futatsuishi Beach and on the final day, Their Majesties attended a ceremony celebrating the 150th anniversary of the naming of Hokkaido and later viewed the traditional cultures of the Ainu people and the Hadrosaurid dinosaur skeleton (nicknamed the “Mukawaryu”). With this visit to Rishiri-to, Their Majesties have now visited 55 of Japan’s remote islands. In September, Their Majesties traveled to Fukui Prefecture for the 73rd National Sports Festival. After visiting the Museum of Education of Fukui Prefecture, They viewed the opening performances and attended the opening ceremony of the festival as scheduled. However, as a major Typhoon No. 24 (Typhoon Trami) was approaching, and there was a possibility of airplanes being grounded the next day, September 30, the scheduled day of Their return, and to ensure that local governments and police are able to respond to the impending disaster, Their Majesties decided that there was no choice but to cancel subsequent plans, including attending a meeting with festival officers and viewing the fencing event, and returned to Tokyo one day earlier.

During the past year, Their Majesties made official and private regional visits to 27 cities and 8 towns in 12 prefectures, not including Their visits for rest and recuperation to the Imperial Villas and the towns of Karuizawa and Kusatsu.

In and around Tokyo, as part of Her official duties, Her Majesty, together with His Majesty the Emperor, attended the Memorial Ceremony for the War Dead, the award ceremony for the International Prize for Biology, the presentation ceremony and banquet for the Japan Prize, the award ceremony and reception for the MIDORI Prize, and the award ceremonies for the Japan Art Academy Award and the Japan Academy Prize, as They do every year. Their other visits included ceremonies to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the enforcement of the Local Autonomy Law, the completion of the plaza in front of Tokyo Station on the Marunouchi side, the 70th anniversary of the Municipal Fire Services, and the 70th anniversary of the founding of the Japan Coast Guard, as well as the opening ceremony and reception of the general assembly of the 68th International Academy for Production Engineering, which is an international conference, and a gathering to commemorate both the 800th anniversary of the founding of the University of Salamanca and the 20th anniversary of the founding of the Association of the University of Salamanca in Japan. With His Majesty King Carl XVI Gustaf and Her Majesty Queen Silvia of the Kingdom of Sweden, who were visiting Japan as official guests, They viewed “The Art of Natural Science in Sweden—Treasures from Uppsala University,” a special exhibition commemorating the 150th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Japan and Sweden. Their Majesties also viewed a photography exhibition held at the Embassy of Brazil in Tokyo to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Their first visit to Brazil and the “NITTEN The Japan Fine Arts Exhibition: The 4th Reorganized New NITTEN.” They attended the Warsaw National Philharmonic Orchestra’s New Year concert commemorating the 100th anniversary of the restoration of Polish independence, Classic Aid, a charity concert to support the recovery efforts from the Great East Japan Earthquake, a charity concert for children with cancer, and a concert by the Vietnam National Symphony Orchestra commemorating the 45th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Japan and Viet Nam. In addition, Their Majesties visited Inokashira Park, located on land given to the city of Tokyo by the Imperial Household Agency, which was celebrating its centenary. During the Week of Disabled Persons, Their Majesties visited the Ochiai Centre of Isetan Mitsukoshi Soleil, Co., Ltd. These official visits in and around Tokyo totaled 44 occasions. As this was the final festival of the Heisei era, Their Majesties were to attend together the 20 th Handicapped Persons Nippon Taiko Festival, an event Her Majesty had attended on Her own every five years. However, as Her Majesty came down with symptoms of a cold accompanied by coughing, the Emperor attended the event on His own without Her Majesty.

Her Majesty also made 23 official visits on Her own, including the annual meeting of the Japanese Red Cross Society, which She attended as its Honorary President. Other events included a ceremony to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Japanese Nursing Association, a celebration to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Asia-Pacific Ladies Friendship Society, the closing reception of the 64th Zonta International Convention, and a photography exhibition commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Bethel Institute of Germany. She visited the National Centre for Child Health and Development’s Momiji House, a short-stay medical care facility for seriously ill children and their families, viewed the craft exhibit of Asahide Gakuen, a school for children with special needs, and attended charity concerts to support the recovery efforts from the Great East Japan Earthquake. She also attended concerts by music college graduates and by Shichikukai, dedicated to preserving gagaku music (Japanese imperial court music), held annually at the Toka Gakudo concert hall in the Imperial Palace grounds.

At the Imperial Palace and the Imperial Residence, Their Majesties met with people who have made contributions to society through their efforts in such fields as culture, welfare, industry, international cooperation, academia, and the arts. These included recipients of the Order of Culture and Persons of Cultural Merit, recipients of various ministers’ awards, winners of the Emperor’s Prize at the Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries Festival, recipients of the National Personnel Authority President Award, persons newly recognized for maintaining Japan’s important intangible cultural properties, recipients of the Crown Prince Akihito Scholarship, which was established in commemoration of Their Majesties’ wedding in 1959, mainly by Americans of Japanese ancestry in Hawaii to support exchange students in Japan and Hawaii, representatives of the Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers returning from their overseas posts, representatives of the Senior Overseas Volunteers and the youth and senior Volunteers for Nikkei Communities, members of the Japan Academy and the Japan Art Academy, the president of the Japanese Red Cross Society, and the rector of the University of Salamanca. Ever since Their Majesties visited Spain in 1994, the rectors of the University of Salamanca have visited the Imperial Palace every time they come to Japan. As this year was the 30th anniversary of “The sea is longing for the forest” movement, the founder of the movement Mr. Shigeatsu Hatakeyama, the oyster farmer of Kesennuma who has been planting broad-leaved trees upstream of rivers which flow into the ocean in order to enrich the fishing ground, was invited to the Imperial Residence as was Mr. Yoshiomi Tamai, for working over the years to help children who have lost their parents in traffic accidents to get scholarships to continue studying. Their Majesties commended them and thanked them for their work.

On Her own, Her Majesty heard reports from the president of the Japan Nursing Association, the president of the Asia-Pacific Ladies Friendship Society, and the chair of the 2018 Zonta International Convention Committee, prior to attending the events of those organizations. She received in audience the awardees of the annual “Nemunoki" (Silk Tree) Award, funded by the royalties donated by Her Majesty from the song “Lullaby under the Silk Tree,” a lyric poem She wrote in Her high school days. The Award is given to those involved in helping children and adults with severe mental and physical disabilities. She also met the president of Verlag Herder, the German publishing house which published Her collection of waka poems in German under the title Nur eine kleine Maulbeere. Aber sie wog schwer (original title: Sono hitotsubu ni omomi no arite), and the director of the International Youth Library in Munich, which She visited on the occasion of Their Majesties’ visit to Germany in September 1993. These audiences totaled 41 occasions. In addition, Her Majesty, either together with His Majesty or on Her own, heard lectures and reports on 52 occasions.

With regard to Japan’s relations with other countries, Her Majesty, together with His Majesty, welcomed as state guests to Japan His Royal Highness Grand Duke Henri of Luxembourg last November and His Excellency President Tran Dai Quang of the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam and Madam Nguyen Thi Hien in May this year. In each instance Their Majesties attended the welcoming ceremony, had a meeting, and hosted a banquet at the Palace for the guests, and called on them at the Akasaka Detached Palace, the State Guest House where they were staying, and bade them farewell before their departure from Japan. During the state guests’ stay, Their Majesties accompanied His Royal Highness Grand Duke Henri and Her Royal Highness Princess Alexandra to the cities of Tsuchiura and Tsukuba in Ibaraki Prefecture. They also attended, together with the President and First Lady of Viet Nam, a reception commemorating the 45th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Japan and Viet Nam. As for guests other than state guests, They met with His Excellency President Rodrigo Roa Duterte of the Philippines and Ms. Cielito Salvador Avanceña, the Honourable President Donald J. Trump and the First Lady of the United States, His Excellency President Hery Rajaonarimampianina and the First Lady of Madagascar, His Excellency President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and the First Lady of Germany, His Excellency President Maithripala Sirisena and the First Lady of Sri Lanka, and His Excellency President Lenín Moreno Garcés and the First Lady of Ecuador. They also received in audience the President of the Assembly of Mozambique and her spouse, the President of the Federal Senate of Brazil and his spouse, the Prime Minister of Samoa and his spouse, and the President of the National Assembly of the French Republic and his spouse.

At the Imperial Residence, Their Majesties hosted a luncheon for Her Royal Highness Princess Chulabhorn Walailak of Thailand, hosted a dinner for Their Majesties King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia of Sweden, and held teas for Her Royal Highness Princess Ashi Sonam Dechen Wangchuck of Bhutan and Her Royal Highness Princess Benedikte of Denmark. Their Majesties also invited to tea at the Imperial Palace the national leaders, their spouses, and others attending the 8th Pacific Islands Leaders Meeting.

With regard to the diplomatic corps serving in Tokyo, Their Majesties invited to tea the newly appointed ambassadors and their spouses, representing 39 countries, and to luncheon the ambassadors and their spouses who have been in Japan for three years or longer, representing 11 countries and one organization, as well as granting farewell audiences to the ambassadors and their spouses from 12 countries upon completion of their assignments. This year Their Majesties invited a total of 110 ambassadors and their spouses from 62 countries and one organization. Her Majesty joined His Majesty in meeting Japanese ambassadors and their spouses departing for overseas posts in 37 countries and two organizations. They also invited to tea the ambassadors and their spouses returning to Japan from 30 countries and one organization and heard accounts of their experiences in those countries.

This year, the annual Imperial sericulture work began in May, and Her Majesty made a total of 19 visits to the related places, including the mulberry fields on the Palace grounds, where She picks the leaves to feed the silkworms, the enclosure for the wild silkworms where She breeds and harvests them, and the Imperial Cocoonery, where She tends to and harvests the koishimaru silkworm cocoons. Her Majesty makes straw cocooning frames, spins the cocoons, harvests the cocoons, and trims them. This year’s yield of cocoons amounted to 161.4 kilograms. The koishimaru, which Her Majesty cultivates, is a purely domestic silkworm and is considered optimal for restoring ancient silk textiles. At the request of the Office of the Shosoin Treasure House, Her Majesty increased the production of koishimaru cocoons to be used in creating replicas of various ancient textile items and presented those cocoons to the Shosoin Treasure House. This year, She presented the cocoons for the production of replica strings for the “five-stringed biwa lute of shitan with mother-of-pearl inlay,” one of the treasures of the Shosoin.

Although the pain caused by cervical spondylotic radiculopathy and other conditions have rendered it increasingly difficult for Her Majesty to observe the ritual ceremonies at the Imperial Palace, She has continued, even after entering Her eighties, to attend the Spring and Autumn Ceremonies of Korei-sai and Shinden-sai at Koreiden and Shinden, respectively, and the Annual Ceremony of Emperor Showa and the Annual Ceremony of Empress Kojun at Koreiden, in keeping with tradition. However, the court physician came to the conclusion that it would be too much of a strain for Her Majesty to go up on Her knees to the raised floor of the inner temple of Kashiko Dokoro, where only Their Majesties are allowed to go, especially when attending the Spring and Autumn Ceremonies of Korei-sai and Shinden-sai. Therefore, during these ceremonies this year, as with the other ritual ceremonies in which She does not take part, Her Majesty offered prayers at the Imperial Residence, where She remained for the duration of the ceremonies.

In July, the informal engagement of Her Imperial Highness Princess Ayako was announced, and Their Imperial Highnesses Princess Takamado and Princess Ayako visited the Imperial Palace to call on Their Majesties. As His Majesty the Emperor was resting after having experienced dizziness and nausea caused by cerebral anemia early that morning, Her Majesty met the princesses on Her own and conveyed His Majesty’s congratulations on His behalf.

As Their Majesties wish to complete all of Their duties until His Majesty’s abdication on April 30, 2019, notwithstanding Their advancing years, They are particularly mindful of managing Their health. They strive to maintain Their health by leading a well-regulated life, getting up at 6:00 every morning, taking a daily stroll together in and around the Imperial Residence, and exercising regularly. While Her Majesty now has fewer opportunities to play tennis for a brief time with His Majesty, She continues to enjoy heading for Higashi Gyoen, the East Gardens, on Sunday mornings in His Majesty’s car with His Majesty at the wheel. From the top of Honmaru, the site of the Edo Castle’s inner citadel, She enjoys catching a glimpse, through the trees, of people jogging or cycling around the palace grounds. In between Her official duties, She finds time to read and practice the piano from time to time. At the end of August, as in the past, She took part in the annual Kusatsu International Summer Music Academy, though it was a short stay of only one full day, and studied ensemble performance by playing with the musicians who were participating as instructors.

Birthday Celebration Schedule of Her Majesty The Empress

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Time Greetings received by Birthday Celebrations Attended by Location

10:30 am Their Majesties

The Emperor and

Empress Felicitations

and

Celebratory

Toast Grand Chamberlain and staff members of the Board of

Chamberlains Imperial Residence

11:00 am His Majesty

The Emperor Felicitations Grand Steward, Vice-Grand Steward representing staff

members, Special Advisors Imperial Palace

11:10 am Her Majesty

The Empress Felicitations Grand Steward and senior officials, Special Advisors,

Ladies-in-waiting Imperial Palace

11:20 am Her Majesty

The Empress Felicitations Staff members of the Imperial Household Agency and the

Imperial Guard Headquarters Imperial Palace

11:40 am Her Majesty

The Empress Felicitations Prime Minister, Ministers of State, Director-General of the

Cabinet Legislation Bureau, Deputy-Chief Cabinet Secretary,

Speaker and Vice-Speaker of the House of Representatives,

President and Vice-President of the House of Councillors,

Chief Justice and Justice of the Supreme Court, President of

the Board of Audit, President of the National Personnel

Authority, Public Prosecutor General, Chairman of the Fair

Trade Commission, Chairman of the Nuclear Regulation

Authority, and their spouses Imperial Palace

11:50 am Their Majesties

The Emperor and

Empress Felicitations Their Imperial Highnesses Imperial Palace

0:00 pm Their Majesties

The Emperor and

Empress Celebratory

Lunch Their Imperial Highnesses, former members and relatives of

the Imperial Family Imperial Palace

1:20 pm Her Majesty

The Empress Felicitations Former staff members of the Imperial Household Agency

and the Imperial Guard Headquarters Imperial Palace

1:40 pm Their Majesties

The Emperor and

Empress Celebratory

Reception Former Special Advisors, senior officials of the Imperial

Household Agency, etc. Imperial Palace

4:30 pm Their Majesties

The Emperor and

Empress Celebratory

Reception Lecturers, friends, etc. Imperial Residence

6:30 pm Their Majesties

The Emperor and

Empress Felicitations Their Imperial Highnesses Princess Aiko, Prince Hisahito Imperial Residence

7:00 pm Their Majesties

The Emperor and

Empress Celebratory

Dinner Their Imperial Highnesses The Crown Prince and Princess,

Prince and Princess Akishino, Mr. and Mrs. Kuroda Imperial Residence

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