Emperor Akihito & Empress Michiko Current Events Part 2: September 2006- January 2013

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On eve of 79th birthday, Emperor reflects on past year
On the occasion of his 79th birthday, Emperor Akihito reflected on the past year and revealed that he decided to undergo heart bypass surgery in February so that he could attend the ceremony to commemorate the victims of the Great East Japan Earthquake the following month, on the first anniversary of the catastrophe. "I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude for all the concern shown me by the people when I underwent heart surgery," the Emperor said, voicing concern for those who are unable to return to their homes because of radioactive fallout from the Fukushima nuclear crisis, and for Tohoku residents who are spending their second year in temporary housing.
At 79, Emperor maintains rigorous schedule / Agency's bid to ease burden due to heart surgery, cancer treatment thwarted by desire to perform duties
"I would like to keep going for the time being," was the Emperor's quiet but firm response to a question about reducing his public duties at his birthday press conference Sunday. [...] Shingo Haketa, former grand steward of the agency, once explained the Emperor's attitude. "The Emperor strongly believes that his position as a symbol of the nation is based on how active he is," he said. This was evident in his attendance of a government-sponsored memorial service to mark the first anniversary of the March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami. [...] "They made a large incision in his chest during the operation, which probably caused him considerable pain, even with small movements. I could feel the strength of his mind, as well as his sense of responsibility [during the speech]," said a senior agency official.

The Emperor will turn 80 next year. He told well-wishers gathered at the Imperial Palace grounds Sunday that he is now able to live "a normal life." However, the reality is that the Emperor is still receiving hormone treatments to prevent a relapse of the prostate cancer he received surgery for in 2003. [...] At a party in the Imperial garden this autumn, the Empress was seen supporting the Emperor by the arm while they descended a gently sloping graveled path.

According to officials close to the Emperor, he rarely complains about fatigue or pain, probably because he does not see his public duties as a burden. This is why he has not asked for his duties to be reduced, the officials said. In addition, the Emperor appears to place a high value on fairness. "I have certain duties in my position as symbol of the nation," he said at the birthday press conference. "The question of reducing my activities needs to be examined thoroughly based on the principle of fairness." The Emperor's duties are wide-ranging, including promoting international friendship, those related to cultural or academic issues, and presenting awards to citizens who have done good works in their communities. According to the Emperor's ideas of fairness, it would be inappropriate to cut back in one area and not in others.

At a press conference last year, Prince Akishino expressed support for introducing a retirement system, under which the Emperor's duties would be reduced after he reaches a certain age. This year, however, he appeared to have been influenced by his father, saying, "It might be difficult to reduce [the Emperor's] public events while keeping to the principle of fairness." [...]

The Emperor's duties have increased significantly since the reign of his father, Emperor Showa. For instance, the Emperor met with 120 foreign dignitaries at age 74, 1.6 times more than his father met with at that age, and made a total of 80 official visits to locations around the country, 2.3 times more than Emperor Showa. There have also been a number of "traditions" added since the start of the Heisei era, such as holding tea parties for returning ambassadors. Also, before meeting with overseas guests, the Emperor studies their backgrounds and the situation in their countries. While such efforts are invisible to the public, they consume quite a bit of time.
Japan's emperor engaging in close monthly meetings with sons
"I have no worries, I feel rather reassured, because the crown prince and Prince Akishino will assume my duties when I become ill," the Emperor said at the press conference before his 79th birthday.

His clear refusal to reduce his official duties shows the deep trust he places in Crown Prince Naruhito and Prince Akishino. Though a lack of communication with the crown prince was once a concern, the distance between the Emperor and his oldest son is said to have shrunk recently. [...]

However since last year, regular meetings between the Emperor, the crown prince, Prince Akishino and the agency chief at the Imperial Palace have been held, and meetings have been held once a month since July this year, according to a source close to the agency. Revisions on the Imperial system, including one to allow the creation of Imperial branches by letting female members maintain their Imperial status after marriage, were discussed this year, and the review of the Emperor's funeral is also under way in accordance with his wishes. These and other important issues regarding the Imperial family's future seem to have been thoroughly discussed in the meetings.
Emperor, at 79, not ready for letup in official duties
Despite concerns about his advancing age, heightened by his recent heart problems, Emperor Akihito said he wants to continue to perform official duties at his current pace. [...] “Should I be taken ill, Crown Prince (Naruhito) and Prince (Fumihito) will carry out my duties on my behalf, just as they did last year,” he said. “I am not worried about this at all as I have full confidence in them.” [...]


Emperor: [...] A year and nine months has gone by since the Great East Japan Earthquake, and the cold, harsh winter is back again in the afflicted areas. There are people who are unable to return to their homes they used to live in because of radioactive contamination, and people who must spend their second winter in temporary housing covered in snow. My heart goes out to all those afflicted. The number of dead or missing at the time of the disaster was reported to be over 18,000, but since then, there have been more than 2,000 disaster-related deaths, bringing the total number of victims to over 20,000. Many who survived the terrible earthquake and tsunami lost their lives because of harsh living conditions where sufficient medical care and other needs could not be provided. I feel this is indeed a tragedy. Recovery and reconstruction efforts in the afflicted areas include radioactive decontamination, removal of possible asbestos-containing debris harmful to health, and other dangerous tasks. Many of these operations pose health risks to those engaged in them, which is of deep concern. [...]

After my surgery, I experienced some aftereffects such as difficulty in doing the most simple things like running and hitting the ball when playing tennis, but I feel I can now hit the ball nearly as well as I used to. [...] The empress came to see me every day during my hospital stay, giving me much reassurance and comfort. When I had to walk along the hospital corridors as part of my rehabilitation after the surgery, the empress walked with me, seeing to it that a variety of music could be heard in the corridors, and seemingly enjoying the walks herself. I am very touched to know that members of my family each expressed their concern for me in their own way. [...]

Whenever we visit Okinawa, the empress and I visit the graves of the war dead to offer our prayers. As this visit included both our regular stops, where we offer our prayers on each visit, as well as new places, I feel I have been able to deepen my understanding of Okinawa even further. Manzamo is a historical place which has been sung about in the Okinawan poetry Ryu-ka, and I was moved to have been able to visit this place. [...] The warm welcome we received by so many people in Okinawa shall always remain in our hearts. I am aware of the many difficulties the people of Okinawa have had to endure. That is all the more why I feel it is so important that not only the people of Okinawa but also all the people of Japan are always mindful of the many problems Okinawa is facing. No other place in Japan has experienced ground warfare where so many lives were lost. I am deeply concerned that over the years this history, too, may gradually be forgotten. I feel it is important for all Japanese people to share with the people of Okinawa the memory of the calamity sustained by Okinawa in the last war.
The 2013 New Year Message From His Imperial Majesty Emperor Akihito of Japan
A second winter since the Great East Japan Earthquake has come around. At the dawn of the new year, my heart goes out to the afflicted people, those who cannot return to the places they used to live because of radioactive contamination and those who have to spend the cold harsh winter in temporary housing. [...]
Emperor urges support for disaster victims in New Year's message
The Emperor expressed hope that the nation will draw lessons from the triple calamity.

"I sincerely hope that, in the future, the experience of the damage caused by the earthquake and tsunami will be fully utilized in disaster prevention education and town planning so that the country moves toward assuring safety and security in the lives of the people," he said. [...]

Agency officials said the Emperor and Empress, being very sympathetic to the plight of the people in disaster-stricken areas, are considering attending another government-sponsored memorial ceremony as they did last year.
The agency also released several "waka" (poems) written by the Imperial Couple in 2012 to celebrate New Year's Day.
In one of his five poems, the Emperor reflects on an occasion when he visited temporary housing in Sendai, one of the three hardest-hit areas.
On visiting the temporary housing in Sendai
Struck by disaster
Now in temporary housing
People are living
I think how bitterly cold
It must become in winter.
Ways to reduce duties of aging emperor being explored
With Japanese Emperor Akihito set to turn 80 in 2013, concern has grown over his demanding workload and health condition, leading his aides and government officials to explore ways to reduce his burden. [...]

According to an Imperial Household Agency official, the emperor strongly believes that he should engage in activities for the public as long as his health allows him to do so. Emperor Akihito thinks when he becomes unable to perform his duties, a regent should replace him, according to one of the aides. The Imperial Household Law says a regency shall be instituted when the emperor is unable to perform his duties due to serious mental or physical disease. [...]

But in light of the emperor's age and health, maintaining the situation unchanged is not an option for his aides. "Doing nothing is not what we are going to do," one of the aides said. Measures being eyed by the agency at present are shortening the time of events the emperor is to attend and allotting more time to rest during weekdays.
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On January 14 Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko visited the exhibition "The John Gould Bird Series" at the Tamagawa University Education Museum in Tokyo.

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Emperor Akihito delivered a speech during the opening ceremony of the 150-day parliament session at the parliament in Tokyo on January 28, 2013. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pledged, he would not keep stimulus spending 'forever' in a policy speech ahead of a budget that will raise more in taxes than it does from borrowing.

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Time to close this thread. Thanks for all your contributions! The new thread can be found here!
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