Now that the COVID-19 pandemic appears to be subsiding, members of the imperial family are taking part in more social events. For example, recently the Emperor and Empress hosted their annual autumn Imperial Garden Party for the first time in five years. About 1,000 invited guests had a chance to chat with the Emperor, Empress, and other members of the imperial family in a cordial atmosphere.
Such activities on the part of the imperial family encourage and unite the nation. There are turbulent conditions at home and abroad and plenty of bleak news. Amidst this harsh reality, we should feel a renewed sense of gratitude for the existence of the imperial family.
Wide Range of Distinguished Guests
The autumn Imperial Garden Party, per custom, was held at Akasaka Gyoen in the Moto Akasaka district of Tokyo. Held on November 2, it was attended by distinguished guests from various fields.
When elite shogi player Hifumi Kato spoke about the success of shogi phenom Sota Fujii, who at age 21 had already won eight different titles, the Emperor, in turn, praised Kato. His Imperial Highness told his guest, "You too have made tremendous efforts to help the world of shogi develop."
Such interactions were widely reported in newspapers and on TV. Surely that left many people in Japan with a heartwarming feeling.
A Tradition Dating to the Meiji Era
Holding such garden parties in the spring and autumn is a very old tradition. The first was a chrysanthemum viewing party held in the fall of 1880. Important ministers and ambassadors of various countries and their wives were also invited. It was followed by a cherry blossom viewing party the following spring.
The garden parties were suspended in 1937 with the outbreak of the Sino-Japanese War. They were resumed in 1953 when Japan regained full sovereignty at the end of the Allied Occupation.
More recently, these social events had to be canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. They resumed this spring, 2023. This autumn gathering was only the second time a garden party had taken place during the Reiwa era.
Emperor Naruhito's Resolve
The Emperor has made getting out among and interacting with the Japanese people a key focus of his activities. That is why the number of his public appearances has been gradually increasing since May 2023. That is when COVID-19 was downgraded to a "Class 5" disease. It is now in the same category as common infectious diseases such as seasonal influenza.
The number of opportunities for Empress Masako to join him has also increased. She had been recuperating from a an illness.
On October 29, the Emperor and Empress watched the 168th running of the Tenno Sho at the Tokyo Racecourse. This was the first time since Emperor Naruhito’s accession to the throne that the sovereign had attended the race in person.
The imperial couple were cheered loudly when they appeared on the balcony of the VIP box. They responded to the respect and affection being shown to the imperial house by waving to the crowd.
Other members of the imperial family have also been taking part in various activities. Another bright news story was Princess Kako's official visit to Peru earlier in November. She is the second daughter of Crown Prince and Crown Princess Akishino. Her interactions with Peruvians of Japanese ancestry and attendance at commemorative ceremonies were widely reported day after day.
The bond between the imperial family and the people is the foundation of Japan's national character. We are pleased to see an increase in activities that strengthen that bond.
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(Read the report in Japanese.)