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Japan Enters a New Era

Interview with Emperor-in-Waiting: Public Servant in Step with the Times




(First of Three Parts)


The Crown Prince of Japan invited the press for a conference at his official residence in the Tōgū Palace just ahead of his 58th birthday, on February 23. During the interview, he discussed the traditions of the imperial line and explained that, as he prepares to succeed his father, he is “considering how to respond to changing social conditions and will act appropriately.”


It was the Crown Prince’s first public indication of his thoughts on the upcoming imperial succession following the official announcement of the date of his enthronement ceremony, scheduled for May 1, 2019.



The Crown Prince indicated that he would be keeping in mind the thoughts and views of the Emperor and Empress as he takes on his new duties. He added, “I would like to carry out my duties while continuing to apply myself to my studies.”


He indicated his will to consider what is appropriate public service in this era, saying that “in response to changes in Japanese society, the desires of society regarding public service are changing.”


Regarding concerns over doubling of authority with the Emperor, who will enter retirement, the Crown Prince made clear his thoughts that “it is natural that Their Majesties will still receive the affection of many citizens.” (RELATED STORY: After Abdication, Will Emperor Akihito Overshadow Crown Prince? ‘Impossible,’ Says Prince Akishino)


JAPAN Forward is presenting the Crown Prince’s press conference in three parts.




It has been decided that His Majesty the Emperor will abdicate on April 30, and Your Highness will take the throne on May 1. Please let us know your candid reaction to the abdication, and how you will be spending your remaining time as Crown Prince. What sort of discussion did you have with His Majesty regarding the choice of date?


As I mentioned during my birthday press conference last year, I watched His Majesty’s video message with meticulous attention, and reacted to His Majesty’s thoughts earnestly and seriously.


Their Majesties have been attending carefully to each and every concern of the nation for many years, and I have had the occasion to see their hard and sincere work. So, I engaged once again in thinking about the path taken by Their Majesties up to now and acknowledged the choice of date in theSpecial Law on Imperial Household Regulations Concerning the Abdication of the Emperor” with deep emotion and the utmost respect.


While always bearing firmly in my mind the attitude and frame of mind represented in the public service of Their Majesties, regarding my own activities from now on, I would like to carry out my duties while continuing to apply myself to my studies.



For example, memorial services last year commemorated the deaths of Emperors Sanjō, Fushimi, and Go-Yōzei, from which respectively 1,000 years, 700 years, and 400 years have passed. This presented an occasion to inquire into the vestiges left by each emperor. We visited Daigoji temple in the autumn and were able to see the manuscript letters left by Emperor Go-Yōzei, among others. I personally felt this was a valuable occasion to think back on how past emperors interacted with the people and society around them, and the paths taken in the past.


Regarding His Majesty, I am taking my time, as I have done before, to inquire into his thoughts and speak with him whenever the occasion presents itself. I will refrain from relating the specific contents of our conversations here, but such occasions are deeply significant for me and I am very grateful to have them.


Last year, I attended the opening ceremony of the Asian Winter Games as a representative of His Majesty. I am pleased to assist with anything that might be of the slightest help to Their Majesties. I hope that they will continue to take good care of themselves and I pray for their good health for many years to come.


I would like to ask you about your aspirations as the next symbolic Emperor. Your Highness has mentioned the idea of new public duties in step with the times, but what do you think about the role of the Emperor and Empress in a new era?



Regarding the role of the symbolic Emperor and his public duties, as His Majesty has indicated in the past, and as I myself have said on prior occasions, considering the path walked by the previous emperors, as well as the constitutional provision that the Emperor is the symbol of the nation of Japan and the Japanese people, I believe that, when considering how that symbol should function, it is important to maintain the role where I will share in the joys and sorrows of the Japanese people and pray for their happiness.


Furthermore, to achieve that end, I believe it is valuable to create opportunities to interact with as many people as possible in the course of my ordinary activities. My way of thinking has not changed.


It is valuable, as His Majesty said in his statement to the nation, to “stand by the people, listen to their voices, and be close to them in their thoughts.” When Masako and I visit regions afflicted by disaster and other local areas of Japan, I try to speak with as many people as I can, and I have considered these opportunities precious. I would like to continue aiming for this in the future.


Regarding the role of the Emperor and Empress in a new age, as I stated above, I will continue the longstanding traditions of the Imperial Household cherished by Their Majesties the Emperor and Empress. At the same time, I am thinking that is important to properly embody the role of the “emperor as symbol” as defined in the current Constitution. I believe I will consider the shape of social change and how to act in response to it as I pursue acting as a symbol, and that such conduct is the role of the Imperial House in every generation.



I have made a similar point regarding new public service in step with the times. I think that social desires regarding our public duties will change in response to changes that are taking place in Japanese society, and it is important to respond to such new demands of society.


I have touched on water problems and environmental problems, including the situation surrounding the children and elderly, but I think new requests of society regarding public service will not only be limited to that, and therefore I would like to apply myself sincerely to such public duties.


At the same time, I believe that it is essential to deepen mutual affection with countries around the world, so I hope I can aid the causes of cultural exchange and international goodwill.


I discuss my thoughts about this with Masako on a daily basis, and we also continue our discussions about the shape of our future affairs.



(To be continued)


(Click here to read the original article in Japanese.)


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