Emperor Naruhito speaks during a press conference on Feb 19, ahead of his 61st birthday, at Akasaka Palace in Tokyo. Photo: Imperial Household Agency via AP
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Emperor feels grateful for strength of Japanese people over pandemic

42 Comments

Emperor Naruhito, on the occasion of his 61st birthday on Tuesday, said he felt thankful for the "perseverance and strength of the people" in Japan in the face of the novel coronavirus pandemic and expressed appreciation for the medical professionals who have toiled through it.

The emperor offered his condolences for the many losses suffered in the past year due to the virus, acknowledging the efforts individuals have made to prevent the further spread of infections, as well as the difficulties and stress brought about by the pandemic.

"I look forward to a bright future after the public overcomes the coronavirus pandemic with patience by cooperating with each other," he said during a press conference held in Tokyo last Friday ahead of his birthday.

AP21054017160188.jpg
Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako pose for a photo at Akasaka Palace in Tokyo. Photo: Imperial Household Agency via AP

Together with Empress Masako, 57, the emperor has interacted with health workers, experts, disaster victims, the elderly and the disabled online. He also encouraged people to support each other amid the pandemic in a New Year video message.

The emperor expressed hope that he will be able to visit the northeastern Tohoku region of Japan, which on March 11 will commemorate the 10th anniversary of a massive earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster that killed around 16,000 people and left some 2,500 unaccounted for, mostly in the prefectures of Fukushima, Iwate and Miyagi.

"If I have a chance, I hope to visit the affected areas with the passing of more than 10 years," he said. "I feel that the wounds of people affected by the disaster have not yet healed."

A strong temblor that hit northeastern Japan earlier this month reminded him once again that Japan "needs to think about the Great East Japan Earthquake as a part of the present, and not just the past."

Asked about his niece Princess Mako's planned marriage to her university boyfriend Kei Komuro, which has been delayed following reports of a money dispute involving his mother, the emperor said he hopes for "a situation in which many people are convinced and pleased, as (her father) Crown Prince Fumihito said."

The emperor declined to comment further on issues involving the princess and her boyfriend, both 29.

The crown prince, 55, the emperor's younger brother, said at a press conference in November that he "approves" of his daughter marrying Komuro if the couple are determined to tie the knot, noting that the country's Constitution says marriage shall be based only on the mutual consent of both sexes.

But the prince, who in the past has said that public support is needed before the couple can go ahead with a betrothal ceremony, also said he believes the young couple are "not in a situation where many people are convinced and pleased" about their marriage, and that Princess Mako is aware of this.

Yasuhiko Nishimura, head of the Imperial Household Agency, has urged Komuro to offer the public explanations about the money dispute, which involves money that was spent on his education.

The emperor usually greets the public at the Imperial Palace to celebrate his birthday, but his address was canceled for the second year in a row to help prevent the spread of the virus.

In the press conference, the emperor voiced concern about increases in domestic violence and child abuse cases, alongside the growing suicide rates among women and younger people due to the pandemic.

Regarding his immediate family, the emperor said he would continue to support his wife, who "is still in the process of recovering." The empress, who has long been battling a stress-induced illness, is prone to bouts of exhaustion following major events, he said.

He also talked about his daughter Princess Aiko, a Gakushuin University student who will become an adult member of the family when she turns 20 in December.

"I hope she learns from many people and that the experiences she has broaden her views," the emperor said of his daughter, who is currently attending the university's Department of Japanese Language and Literature.

When asked about his daughter's future marriage plans, the emperor said there will be opportunities to talk about her future, including marriage.

She is the only child of the imperial couple and not an heir to the throne. The 1947 Imperial House Law states that only males in the paternal line can ascend the throne.

Asked about the possibility of female successors amid concerns the imperial household could run out of male heirs, the emperor declined to comment. The Japanese imperial family is now only left with three heirs -- the crown prince, his son Prince Hisahito, 14, and Prince Hitachi, 85, the uncle of the emperor.

Meanwhile, he said it is "unfortunate" that he has fewer opportunities to meet with his 87-year-old father, former Emperor Akihito, who abdicated in 2019, and the crown prince due to the pandemic, but that he communicates with them accordingly.

© KYODO

©2021 GPlusMedia Inc.

42 Comments
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The Imperial Pegboard, again. That is the best backdrop the Kunaicho can come up with.

16 ( +20 / -4 )

I am use to the pegboard. No problem. Happy Birthday Emperor.

-7 ( +6 / -13 )

The emperors family always gives motivation to the japanese population.

That is really nice!

Happy Birthday!

2 ( +11 / -9 )

Happy Birthday.

4 ( +10 / -6 )

May Emperor Naruhito's birthday & every day be filled with love, peace & joy.

7 ( +11 / -4 )

I'm grateful for the holiday, and I wish him happiness. But Japan doesn't have an empire. Why do we have an emperor? Surely he's the king?

7 ( +14 / -7 )

Emperor Naruhito, on the occasion of his 61st birthday on Tuesday, said he felt thankful for the "perseverance and strength of the people" in Japan in the face of the novel coronavirus pandemic and expressed appreciation for medical professionals who have toiled through it.

Praising others perseverance and toil while benefiting it, and being free from it oneself, has been a mark of disconnected "elites " for centuries.

13 ( +15 / -2 )

*benefiting from it

2 ( +2 / -0 )

There is a certain style of Japanese group photography that manages to perfectly make the setting and subjects look uncomfortable and staged. It seems to be a requirement of all official photographs.

9 ( +12 / -3 )

@Derek Grebe

I guess in modern day times, he should technically be a king. An Emperor is/ was usually a ruler over heterogenous territory and I guess it goes back to when Japan was split in regions but united by the Emperor. Japan also has its own calendar system, which connotes their own world and time. I’m not entirely sure but I think there’s a big difference basically in eastern/ western geopolitical interpretations.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

"I feel that the wounds of people affected by the disaster have not yet healed."

Exactly.

The Olympics was sold as a way to show the world that Tohoku has recovered. It hasn’t.

Now the Olympics are being sold as a way to show human victory over the Coronavirus. That too hasn’t come to pass.

The Emperor is a nice man who means well, but I’m tired of the fake gestures of sympathy and encouragement from people who never have to suffer these tragedies.

16 ( +19 / -3 )

a situation in which many people are convinced and pleased

Sounds like propaganda is effective and practiced.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

Thanks for the yasumi.

3 ( +7 / -4 )

Derek Grebe:

But Japan doesn't have an empire. Why do we have an emperor? Surely he's the king?

The reason why Japan has an "emperor" is due to an unfortunate translation of the word "天皇 (Sumeramikoto)" to an English word "emperor".

3 ( +3 / -0 )

@socrateos

Was just going to write this. One thing I'd add is that the translation might have been established as a convention to express that, since the Emperor is (as some apparently still believe) a direct descendant of the gods, he's more than just your usual king.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I bet you they are right at the top of the list to get the Covid jab, if they haven't had it alrerady.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

@Inspector Id say they have had it already.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Thankful for the day off, but my wish is that Japanese public holidays be on a Friday or a Monday instead of middle of the week.

6 ( +8 / -2 )

Happy Birthday Emperor Naruhito. Might just have a little drink or two in your honor later today.

おめでとうございます

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Happy Birthday your Majesty,

May your reign

Continue for a thousand, eight thousand generations,

Until the tiny pebbles

Grow into massive boulders

Lush with moss

-9 ( +2 / -11 )

Here is an interesting passage from "The Imperial Dynasty" (1952) by Jacob Winters, I believe it is out of print.

"The title of Emperor owes to the fact that Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku, Kyushu, and Okinawa were distinct and separate kingdoms. For example, Kyushu was ruled from Hyuga (modern Miyazaki) and was known as Hayato Daiyo. The archipelago is the empire of the Emperor."

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Not a hint of obsequious extravagance. Rudimentary simplicity. Not a Chesterfield, or chaise longue just a basic settee, the low table, functional plain and uncomplicated.

Emperor Naruhito, radiates a genuine aura of warm thoughtful kindness. Selflessness understanding  

Happy Birthday

I am always intrigued to what will be placed on the table?

Cow, rabbit, a red one-eyed beast hybrid. I had my money on the atlas/globe.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

What a great looking family. They should all be models in the big magazines.

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

A little disappointing, he and his family have been invisible for the best part of a year, in total contrast to his father and mother. I guess the IHA are terrified of him getting sick, and keeping him safely isolated.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

A little disappointing, he and his family have been invisible for the best part of a year, in total contrast to his father and mother. I guess the IHA are terrified of him getting sick, and keeping him safely isolated.

Where do you expect him to go in the middle of a pandemic?

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

Happy birthday to the emperor,a man of peace and I truly feel he cares of his country.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Wonderful polish on that floor in the photo on the front page. You'd need to be careful walking on that in just your socks.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Otanjoubi omedetou gozaimasu!

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

But Japan doesn't have an empire. Why do we have an emperor? Surely he's the king?

The reason why Japan has an "emperor" is due to an unfortunate translation of the word "天皇 (Sumeramikoto)" to an English word "emperor".

True. Besides, the word "king" or 王 doesn't necessarily mean a sovereign in European sense. The Chinese dynastic emperors had subjugated/authorized kings.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Great family and role model for Japan.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

What else did he expect people to do? Given the state of hospital access for COVID patients, it's not like the people had any other choice but to "persevere"...

0 ( +1 / -1 )

"But Japan doesn't have an empire." Despite his grandfather's best efforts...

3 ( +5 / -2 )

I don't like the royals/elite thing. But still happy birthday.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

A little disappointing, he and his family have been invisible for the best part of a year, in total contrast to his father and mother.

Well, he has been doing more than you think. It is just not covered as COVID, Trump, and other disasters has taken the spotlight. Although he could not go out much due to the pandemic, you can check the Kunaicho website schedule to see what he has been up to. Just before the pandemic really hit, they went visiting a center for people with disabilities. Kako-sama went to a conference supporting mothers who have kids with hearing disabilities. After the pandemic really hit hard, they have been doing online meetings with hospitals/Red Cross from Hokkaido, Fukushima, Okinawa etc. They also did an online meeting encouraging the victims of the Kumamoto flood.

He has a a lot of duties to attend such as embassy officials coming/leaving office, awards, politics, and symposiums (probably much more than this as there is a lot of "official duties" in his schedule). Moreover, he is the head of Shinto and his schedule is packed with ceremonies.

There is a reason the previous Emperor had to throw in the towel.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Happy Birthday and all the best in the coming year...

0 ( +0 / -0 )

may his reign be long and prosperous! thankyou, Naruhito-sama!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Play the national anthem on in celebration:

https://youtu.be/tDrvgfDiEE4

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Thankful for the day off, but my wish is that Japanese public holidays be on a Friday or a Monday instead of middle of the week.

Agreed, however I'm more concerned with when a public holiday falls on a weekend and a day in liu is not given, for example the following Monday becomes a holiday in the UK.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I always forget about the Imperial family, until I am reminded of their existence in the news. Guess that's a good thing.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Whatever one thinks of the Emperor I must say when he speaks it is rarely about himself and most often if not always about the Japanese people.

I would much rather hear the Emperor speak than any of the politicians in Japan any time.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Yes, Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako are above political intrigue, or the current shenanigans of this ruling party politics.

This could be a welcome reality, for diplomacy, with the geopolitical challenges facing the region in the coming months.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday to you, Happy Biiiiiiiiiirthday Dear Emperooooor, Happy Birthday To Youuuuuuuuuuu.

Wish that I can record it but this board wont let me, SAD.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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