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Home > Media Reiews > News Review Last Updated: 14:52 03/09/2007
News Review #92: December 24, 2002

Japan Emperor, on Birthday, Touches on Poor Economy

Reviewed By Hitoshi URABE

"Japan Emperor, on Birthday, Touches on Poor Economy"
(by REUTERS) New York Times


The Emperor's birthday, December 23, is a holiday in Japan. The birthday of the late Emperor Showa, is now celebrated as the Greenery Day on April 29, and for Emperor Meiji, on November 3, as the Culture Day.

It has been customary for a member or the Imperial Family to provide a comment upon his or her birthday. Emperor Akihito has done so also, upon facing his 69th birthday.

He mourned for the passing of Prince Takamado, the Emperor's cousin, who died on November 21 at the age of 47. Prince Takamado had been known for his frank personality, apprehension for classic music, and being a supporter of sporting activities, for which he had served as the honorary chairman for Japan Football Association. This had brought him to South Korea for the opening ceremony of 2002 FIFA World Cup, which was the first time ever for a member of the Royal Family to visit the country after WWII. In fact, Prince Takamado was playing squash until his last moment.

The Emperor then expressed his sympathy for those who were abducted by North Korea, especially for the five victims who came back in October as a result of Prime Minister Koizumi's visit to Pyongyang a month earlier. This was in resonance with, and in effect endorsed, the comments by Empress Michiko, when she had earlier said with regard to the abductions, "Why did we fail to more strongly recognize the absence of these people as a tragedy of our common society?" At the time, this was considered to be a relatively strong statement by the Empress.

Those royal remarks were noted in prior to the occasion. Then, as the article reports, the Emperor in his appearance on the balcony of the Imperial Palace, made another comment by saying, "I understand that everyone has been living through continuing tough economic times."

It has been customary for him to only mention such things as the affairs within the Royal Family, or to express a very vague and broad wish that the people would live well at formal occasions. The tradition for the Emperor to not get involved in current affairs some say was established centuries ago, in 12th century when samurai class took over the actual power of governing the country, which continues to this day in a fully democracy where the power is with the people. It is therefore very special for the Emperor to comment in any way on political, social, or economic respects of the time. It could perhaps be interpreted as that the economic situation in Japan so grave that he had decided to make reference to it.

Having his birthday on December 23 was obviously not of his choosing, though it used to lead some to complain it would conflict with Christmas Holidays. It turns out, however, that it might be a right time, during the busiest season in Japan, for people to take a breath, so that the New Years could be greeted without fatigue.

It has in fact provided an opportunity for the Emperor, and appropriately he did, to wish the people a Happy New Year.

Copyright © Japanese Institute of Global Communications