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Activities of His Majesty the Emperor over the Past Year

Emperor Akihito, who turns 85 on Dec. 23, 2018, is seen with Empress Michiko on Dec. 10, 2018. (Photo courtesy of the Imperial Household Agency)

The following is a description of the activities of Emperor Akihito over the past year on the occasion of his 85th birthday on December 23, 2018, as provided by the Imperial Household Agency.

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    Today His Majesty the Emperor celebrated His 85th birthday.

    With regard to His official duties of state, this year His Majesty attended the Imperial Investiture of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, the accreditation of 98 officials including 14 Ministers of State, 22 Vice Ministers, 40 Ambassadors, and other senior officials, the presentation of Letters of Credentials by 40 newly arrived foreign ambassadors, and the awards and decoration ceremonies for 36 recipients of the Order of the Grand Cordon and five recipients of the Order of Culture. He signed and affixed His official seal to a total of 940 documents submitted by the Cabinet. At the Imperial Palace and the Imperial Residence, His Majesty met with, congratulated and/or expressed appreciation for the services of a number of people including the recipients of the Order of Culture and Persons of Cultural Merit, recipients of various orders, medals of honour, and commendations, winners of the Emperor's Prize at the Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries Festival, recipients of various ministers' awards, recipients of the National Personnel Authority President Award, members of the Japan Art Academy, members of the Japan Academy, persons newly recognized for maintaining Japan's intangible cultural properties and their spouses, Senior Overseas Volunteers, senior Volunteers for Nikkei Communities, representatives of the Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers returning from their overseas posts, representatives of the youth Volunteers for Nikkei Communities, and recipients of the Crown Prince Akihito Scholarship, established by Americans of Japanese ancestry residing in Hawaii and others to commemorate Their Majesties' wedding in 1959, on a total of 75 occasions.

    His Majesty also heard 10 lectures from the Director-General of the Foreign Policy Bureau of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and others. He received explanatory briefings on 38 occasions regarding His official visits and attendances at various events. He also met with a total of 11,672 members of the Palace voluntary workforce on 67 occasions.

    This year again, as Japan was struck by many natural disasters, from typhoons and torrential rains to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, His Majesty, together with Her Majesty the Empress, made a number of visits to the afflicted areas and comforted those affected by the disasters, praying for the victims as well as consoling the families of the deceased. In July, torrential rains that hit western Japan resulted in many casualties and forced numerous people to evacuate their homes in the prefectures of Hiroshima, Ehime, and Okayama. Through the Grand Chamberlain, Their Majesties conveyed messages of condolence for the victims of the disaster, sympathy for those affected, and appreciation for those engaged in disaster control to the governors of those prefectures. In September, They took two separate day trips to the affected areas in the three prefectures. Likewise, when the Hokkaido Eastern Iburi Earthquake struck in September, Their Majesties conveyed to the governor of Hokkaido through the Grand Chamberlain Their condolences and appreciation to those involved the day after the earthquake and made a day trip to the affected area in November.

    With regard to other regional visits as well, His Majesty was accompanied by Her Majesty on each occasion. In March, ahead of His abdication next year, Their Majesties made Their 11th trip to Okinawa Prefecture. After paying Their respects at the Okinawa Peace Hall, They laid flowers and prayed at the National War Dead Peace Mausoleum. On the following day, They took a day trip from the main island of Okinawa to Yonaguni-jima island, where They saw the Yonaguni horse, an endangered Japanese breed of small horses native to the island, and the Yonaguni-san, one of the world's largest moths, and observed bo odori (stick dance), a traditional dance. They also visited Japan's westernmost monument at Irizaki and toured the Yonaguni-cho Fisheries Cooperative Association. On the final day, Their Majesties watched a karate demonstration at the Okinawa Karate Kaikan. On the occasion of the 69th National Arbor Day Festival held in June in Minami-soma, Fukushima Prefecture, Their Majesties visited the prefecture for three days, during which They met and conversed with residents of the Kita-yoshima apartment complex, a post-disaster public housing project built by the prefecture, and others and met with the mayors, the town assembly chairs, and the representatives of the residents of Hirono and Naraha towns, where evacuation orders were issued to all the residents in the wake of the Great East Japan Earthquake. At the Shidoke Village Centre, Their Majesties paid Their respects at the monument for the victims of the tsunami that followed the earthquake. On the third day, despite the poor weather, Their Majesties laid flowers at the cenotaph for the victims of the Great East Japan Earthquake in Soma city, visited the Soma City Haragama Region Fresh Produce Market and the Yuji Koseki Memorial Hall. The total distance covered by car over the three-day trip in the prefecture came to 280 kilometres. In August, Their Majesties visited Hokkaido, where They attended a ceremony celebrating the 150th anniversary of the naming of Hokkaido and visited a farm where mentally disabled persons work. On the second day, They made a day trip to visit the island of Rishiri-to, where They viewed a sea urchin seed production centre and Otatomari Swamp, and strolled along the island's Futatsuishi Beach. In September, Their Majesties traveled to Fukui Prefecture for the 73rd National Sports Festival. After visiting the Museum of Education of Fukui Prefecture, They viewed the opening performances and attended the opening ceremony of the festival as scheduled. However, as a major Typhoon No. 24 (Typhoon Trami) was approaching, Their Majesties cancelled subsequent plans, including attending a meeting with festival officers and viewing the fencing event, to ensure that local governments and police are able to respond to the impending disaster, and returned to Tokyo one day earlier. In October, They visited Kochi Prefecture on the occasion of the 38th National Convention for the Development of an Abundantly Productive Sea and toured the Kochi Prefectural Forestry College and Kochi University's Centre for Advanced Marine Core Research.

    With regard to private trips, which They started taking five years ago, Their Majesties travelled to Shizuoka Prefecture in November. In Kakegawa city, They visited Nemunoki Gakuen, Japan's first school and community for children and persons with severe physical disabilities, which celebrated its 50th anniversary, and saw paintings and dance performances by the children and residents. At the temple Jorin-ji in Fukuroi, Their Majesties viewed a monument dedicated to Dr. Sakitaro Asaba, which was erected by Phan Boi Chau, the pioneer of the Vietnamese independence movement (whose memorial house Their Majesties toured during Their trip to Viet Nam in March 2017), out of gratitude for the support that he had received during his stay in Japan. Also in Fukuroi, Their Majesties viewed a special exhibit commemorating the centennial of the monument's completion at the Kondo Memorial Hall and the permanent exhibition at the adjoining Asaba Museum of History and Traditional Craft. At the Hamamatsu Foreign Resident Study Support Center, They observed a Japanese language class for foreign nationals and a training course for Japanese-language learning support volunteers, after which They visited the Hamamatsu Museum of Musical Instruments. Initially scheduled for July, this trip had been postponed due to the torrential rains that hit western Japan shortly before the planned dates.

    For rest and recuperation, Their Majesties briefly stayed at the Hayama Imperial Villa in February and June. They were scheduled to visit the Nasu Imperial Villa in July, but this was canceled due to the torrential rains in western Japan. As in other years, Their Majesties spent late August in the towns of Karuizawa in Nagano Prefecture and Kusatsu in Gunma Prefecture.

    During the past year, Their Majesties made official and private regional visits to twenty-five cities and five towns in nine prefectures, not including Their visits for rest and recuperation to the Imperial Villas and the towns of Karuizawa and Kusatsu.

    In Tokyo, as part of Their official duties, Their Majesties attended the Memorial Ceremony for the War Dead, the presentation ceremony and banquet for the Japan Prize, the award ceremony and reception for the MIDORI Prize, and the award ceremonies for the Japan Art Academy Award, the Japan Academy Prize, and the International Prize for Biology, as They do every year. Their other visits included ceremonies to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Municipal Fire Services and the 70th anniversary of the founding of the Japan Coast Guard, as well as the opening ceremony and reception of the 68th general assembly of the International Academy for Production Engineering, which is an international conference, a gathering to commemorate the 800th anniversary of the University of Salamanca and the 20th anniversary of the Association of the University of Salamanca in Japan, a reception to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Praemium Imperiale global arts prize in honour of Prince Takamatsu, and a ceremony to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the labour and social security attorney system. With His Majesty King Carl XVI Gustaf and Her Majesty Queen Silvia of the Kingdom of Sweden, who were visiting Japan as official guests, Their Majesties viewed "The Art of Natural Science in Sweden--Treasures from Uppsala University," a special exhibition commemorating the 150th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Japan and Sweden. With the President and First Lady of Viet Nam, who were visiting Japan as state guests, They attended a reception commemorating the 45th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Japan and Viet Nam.

    Their Majesties also attended the Warsaw National Philharmonic Orchestra's New Year concert commemorating the 100th anniversary of the restoration of Polish independence; "Kotohogu Sandai Kabuki no Nigiwai," part of a program of kabuki performances commemorating the 130th anniversary of the Kabukiza Theatre; Classic Aid, a charity concert to support the recovery efforts from the Great East Japan Earthquake; the 54th Suzuki Method Grand Concert commemorating the 120th anniversary of the birth of Shinichi Suzuki; a special preview of the film Hitsuji to Hagane no Mori; a concert by the Cleveland Orchestra commemorating its 100th anniversary; a charity concert for children with cancer; a concert by the Vietnam National Symphony Orchestra commemorating the 45th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Japan and Viet Nam; a "Gala Concert Commemorating the 120th Anniversary of the Classical Music Label Deutsche Grammophon"; and "Ay Sonezaki Shinju," a flamenco performance. Their Majesties viewed the rotating exhibition "90 Years of Kinderbook: The world of children traced through pictures and songs"; an exhibition of calligraphic works and paintings by the Aisin Gioro clan, held to commemorate the 100th anniversary of J. F. Oberlin University and Affiliated Schools and the 40th anniversary of the Treaty of Peace and Friendship between Japan and China; the exhibition "The 150th Anniversary of His Birth: Yokoyama Taikan"; the exhibition "Turner and the Poetics of Landscape"; the 70th Mainichi Shodo (calligraphy) Exhibition; "Japan in Architecture: Genealogies of Its Transformation," an exhibition commemorating the 15th anniversary of Roppongi Hills and the Mori Art Museum; "The World According to Meiji Japan--The Opening of Japan: A History in Murals," a special exhibition commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Meiji Restoration; and "Japan through Diplomats' Eyes," a photography exhibition. During the Week of Disabled Persons in December, Their Majesties visited Japan's first facility for children with intellectual disabilities, the Social Welfare Foundation Takinogawa Gakuen, with which They have had a long-standing relationship.

    On His own, His Majesty attended the opening of the National Diet in January and October, and for His customary visit to companies, He visited Hamano Products Co., Ltd., in June. He also attended the 2018 annual meeting (50th anniversary meeting) and reception of the Ichthyological Society of Japan. Their Majesties were to attend the 20th Handicapped Persons Nippon Taiko Festival together, but as Her Majesty came down with symptoms of a cold accompanied by coughing, His Majesty attended the event on His own.

    With regard to activities within the Imperial Palace grounds, His Majesty viewed the exhibit of "Kasuga Gongen Genki E (Legends of Kasuga Shrine", the Restoration of Scroll Masterpiece of the Kamakura Period" to commemorate the completion of the restoration which were made possible with the use of cocoons of the koishimaru silkworm cultivated by Her Majesty, at the Sannomaru Shozokan (Museum of the Imperial Collections). He also attended the annual spring recital of gagaku music (Japanese imperial court music), picked the fruits of an ancient fruit tree called waringo, or Chinese pearleaf crabapple (Malus asiatica), viewed the traditional equestrian art of dakyu, or ancient Japanese polo, and released special carp called hirenaga nishikigoi into Ninomaru Pond in the East Gardens of the Palace. Hirenaga nishikigoi are the product of crossbreeding between a long-finned Indonesian carp and the Japanese nishikigoi, which was suggested by His Majesty, and have been released in the pond twice before, in 1991 and 2012. As He hopes to increase their population before his abdication next year so that visitors can enjoy them, His Majesty, together with Her Majesty, released more of the fish in November.

    These official visits in Tokyo totaled 47 occasions.

    With regard to Japan's relations with other countries, Their Majesties welcomed as state guests to Japan His Excellency President Tran Dai Quang of the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam and Madam Nguyen Thi Hien in May. Their Majesties attended the welcoming ceremony, had a meeting, and hosted a banquet at the Palace for the guests and called on them at the Akasaka Detached Palace, the State Guest House where they were staying, to bid them farewell before their departure from Japan. As for guests other than state guests, as a rule, if the guests are accompanied by their spouses, Their Majesties meet them, and if they are unaccompanied, His Majesty meets the guest on His own. Their Majesties met with His Excellency President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and the First Lady of Germany, Her Excellency President Michelle Bachelet Jeria of Chile, His Excellency President Maithripala Sirisena and the First Lady of Sri Lanka, His Excellency President Lenin Moreno Garces and the First Lady of Ecuador, His Excellency President Emomali Rahmon of Tajikistan, His Excellency President Roch Marc Christian Kabore and the First Lady of Burkina Faso, His Excellency President Nana Aldo Danka Akufo-Addo of Ghana, and His Excellency President Edgar C. Lungu of Zambia.

    They also received in audience the President of the Assembly of Mozambique Ms. Veronica Nataniel Macamo Dlhovo and her spouse, the Speaker of the Parliament of Sri Lanka Mr. Karu Jayasuriya, the Speaker of the National Assembly of Kuwait Mr. Marzouq Ali Mohammad Thenayan Al-Ghanim, the President of the Senate of Brazil Mr. Eunicio Lopes de Oliveira and his spouse, the Speaker of the House of Representatives of Australia Mr. Tony Smith, the Premier of the State Council of China Mr. Li Keqiang, the Prime Minister of Samoa Mr. Tuilaepa Fatialofa Lupesoliai Sailele Malielegaoi and his spouse, the President of the National Assembly of France Mr. Francois de Rugy and his spouse, and the President of the National Assembly of Bulgaria Ms. Tsveta Karayancheva.

    At the Imperial Residence, Their Majesties hosted luncheons for Her Royal Highness Princess Chulabhorn Walailak of Thailand, for the Prime Minister of Malaysia Tun Dr. Mahathir bin Mohamad and his spouse, and for Their Majesties King Abdullah II bin Al Hussein and Queen Rania and His Royal Highness Prince Omar bin Faisal of Jordan, hosted a dinner for Their Majesties King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia of Sweden, and held teas for Her Royal Highness Princess Benedikte of Denmark, for the Rector of the University of Salamanca Dr. Ricardo Rivero Ortega, and for the President of the International Committee of the Red Cross Mr. Peter Maurer.

    At the Imperial Palace, Their Majesties invited to tea the national leaders, their spouses, and others attending the 8th Pacific Islands Leaders Meeting in May and the national leaders and others attending the 10th Mekong-Japan Summit Meeting in October.

    With regard to the diplomatic corps serving in Tokyo, Their Majesties invited to tea the newly appointed ambassadors and their spouses, representing 38 countries and one organization, three at a time, and to luncheon the ambassadors and their spouses who have been in Japan for three years or longer, representing 12 countries, four at a time, as well as granting farewell audiences to each of the ambassadors and their spouses from 24 countries and one organization upon completion of their assignments. Their Majesties met Japanese ambassadors and their spouses departing for overseas posts in 36 countries and one organizations. They also invited to tea the ambassadors and their spouses returning to Japan from 30 countries and one organization and heard accounts of their experiences in those countries.

    As for the ritual ceremonies at the Imperial Palace, His Majesty attended 23 annual ritual ceremonies, while two ceremonies, Tenchosai and Saitansai, were handled by court officials standing in His place. With regard to the Niinamesai Shinkaden-no-gi ceremony, in which His attendance is becoming a cause of concern because of His advancing age, His Majesty took part in the Evening Ritual for a shorter length of time, as He did last year. For the Morning Ritual, in consideration of His health, His Majesty remained in the Imperial Residence for the duration of the ceremony.

    As He does every year, His Majesty himself hand-sowed seed rice, transplanted it, and hand-reaped the grain in the paddy field of the Biological Laboratory on the Imperial Palace grounds. Aside from this, together with His children and grandchildren, He also sowed upland rice and millet and later harvested the grain. Some of the millet was added to the hand-reaped crop of rice used as an offering in the Niinamesai ritual. His Majesty also made an offering of rice plants with roots still attached, which He had planted, to Ise Shrine on the occasion of the Kannamesai ritual there.

    With regard to His health, His Majesty spent several days in July resting at the Imperial Residence due to symptoms of dizziness and nausea caused by cerebral anemia. During this time, Their Imperial Highnesses Princess Takamado and Princess Ayako were scheduled to call on Their Majesties regarding the informal engagement of Princess Ayako, but Her Majesty the Empress met them on Her own and conveyed His Majesty's congratulations on His behalf. As for the scheduled luncheon with foreign ambassadors serving in Tokyo and their spouses, His Imperial Highness the Crown Prince hosted the event in His Majesty's place.

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