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Celebrating Emperor Naruhito's 64th Birthday as He Prays for Earthquake Survivors

In a press conference, the Emperor conveyed "heartfelt gratitude" to workers in Noto and highlighted the importance of global cooperation in facing adversity.



At the general public greeting to commemorate his 64th birthday, His Majesty the Emperor Naruhito waved to people who came to pay their respects at the Chowaden Reception Hall of the Imperial Palace on the morning of February 23. (©Kyodo)

His Majesty Emperor Naruhito celebrated his 64th birthday on February 23. Preceding this occasion, His Majesty held a press conference at the Imperial Palace. There, he expressed his condolences to the victims of the January 1 Noto Peninsula earthquake and offered his sympathies to those affected by the disaster. The Emperor also mentioned his desire to visit the disaster-stricken areas with Her Majesty Empress Masako once it becomes feasible.

From left: Emperor Naruhito, Empress Masako, and their daughter Princess Aiko on February 23 at the Chowaden Reception Hall of the Imperial Palace. (©Sankei by Hideyuki Matsui)

During the press conference, Emperor Naruhito expressed concern about the health risks of the survivors amid the long-term evacuation. He conveyed "heartfelt gratitude" to those diligently working on medical and health support for the affected individuals, as well as the restoration of critical infrastructure. His Majesty sincerely expressed his wish for the "smooth progress of restoration and reconstruction efforts."

Global Challenges

Furthermore, His Majesty referred to issues such as climate change, ongoing wars, and conflicts worldwide. The Emperor expressed, "I am profoundly saddened by the challenging circumstances that the world is currently facing." He added that he "keenly feels" the importance of global cooperation in facing these difficult situations.

Regarding questions about imperial succession, he said that the issue "also relates to the future of the imperial family." The Emperor mentioned the aging of male imperial family members and the decrease in the number of imperial family members. The latter has resulted from the marriages of female members to commoners, leading to their loss of imperial status. However, he refrained from providing specifics about his personal vision for the future regarding this issue as it is a matter that "pertains to the [imperial succession] system."

The Role of the Imperial Family

In May, Japan will be celebrating the fifth anniversary of Emperor Naruhito's enthronement. The Emperor emphasized the importance of the imperial family continuing to expand its interactions with the public. He noted that activities such as regional visits were crucial for imperial family members to gain a comprehensive understanding of how they could serve the people effectively.

Their Majesties the Emperor and Empress and their daughter Princess Aiko visit the headquarters of the Japanese Red Cross Society to view an exhibition showing relief activities. October 2023 in Minato Ward, Tokyo. (©Kyodo)

With the easing of the COVID restrictions, which lasted about three years, the imperial family has increased its participation in public activities. 

His Majesty also reflected on initiatives that began during the Reiwa era (2019 onwards). He acknowledged that the restrictions on interactions during the pandemic were "regrettable." However, he also noted the "advantages" of interacting with the public through online means, which were adopted as part of infection control measures. 

The Emperor expressed joy at the resumption of direct interactions as the pandemic situation stabilized. This has "enabled the deepening of bonds between people," he said.

Japanese Culture and Tradition

In hosting foreign dignitaries, the imperial family serves Japanese cuisine and has begun offering Japanese sake for toasts. He elaborated that he had "consulted with Empress Masako and [imperial household] staff" in such decisions. His Majesty further explained that he hoped to provide "opportunities for guests to learn about Japanese culture and traditions and to foster a sense of closeness to the Japanese people."

Their Majesties the Emperor and Empress and Imperial Highnesses the Crown Prince and Crown Princess attend a luncheon with Vietnamese President Vo Van Thuong and his wife, toasting with Japanese sake. Rensui Hall, Imperial Palace. November 28, 2023. (©Sankei by Kazuya Kamokawa)

His Majesty also spoke about his immediate family. He conveyed his gratitude to the Empress, with whom he celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary in 2022. He stated, "I would like to convey my continued appreciation for her support in the future ahead."

Their daughter Princess Aiko was recently offered a position at the Japanese Red Cross Society. His Majesty said that she had "always wanted to serve others" and hoped that she would "continue to grow as an adult member of society."


(Read the article in Japanese.)

Author: The Sankei Shimbun

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