In a news conference marking Crown Prince Naruhito's 58th birthday on Feb. 23, the heir to the Chrysanthemum Throne conveyed his wish to serve as the symbol of Japan in the future like his father before him, but also to carve out his own path based on the changing needs of the people.
"While carrying on the traditions of the Imperial Household, it is also vital to fulfill the role stipulated in the Constitution for the emperor as the symbol (of the state and of the unity of the people)," the Crown Prince said to reporters at his residence at Togu Palace in Tokyo's Minato Ward.
He also offered his thoughts about official duties to match the times, which he has also referred to before. After touching on his past duties relating to environmental issues and the situations surrounding children and the elderly in Japan, he expressed his awareness that his duties will not be limited to only these issues. "I believe the societal demands for my official duties will change in accordance with the shifts in Japanese society, and I think being able to meet those new societal demands is important." He added that he intended to carry out those duties sincerely.
According to the Imperial Household Agency, both Crown Prince Naruhito and Crown Princess Masako are learning about social issues of interest to them from experts and are working to build their understanding of conditions both domestically and internationally.
In January, in order to become more knowledgeable about the volunteer activities of probation officers supporting juvenile offenders, the couple learned about the current conditions and issues facing the offender rehabilitation system from the head of the Ministry of Justice Rehabilitation Bureau. In February, they also reportedly listened to a lecture about issues regarding the realization of a sustainable society and other information given by the director-general for Global Issues of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Crown Princess Masako was also mentioned during the news conference as she continues to recuperate from a stress-related illness. In the last year, she has made six official visits to regional areas of Japan alongside her husband.
"She has steadily performed public activities one at a time, which has contributed to building her confidence, and this has led to a far wider variety of activities she can perform," the Crown Prince said.
In June 2018, the couple will celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary. "We are extremely thankful to be able to reach this quarter of a century milestone (in our marriage) with the support of many people," Crown Prince Naruhito commented. He disclosed that he discusses how official duties should be conducted with the Crown Princess and that they share their thoughts on the matter.
"Over the coming year as well, she will continue to make efforts toward recovery," he said. "I am grateful for all of the warm smiles that greet the two of us along the roads and at the venues (we visit). They also serve as a great support for (Crown Princess) Masako, and for that I am extremely thankful."