Empress turns 79, voices ‘joy’

Kyodo

Empress Michiko, who turned 79 on Sunday, expressed joy over Crown Princess Masako’s first official overseas trip in 11 years.

“I was truly happy that the Crown Princess was able to visit the Netherlands and return home safely,” the Empress said, referring to the princess’ visit with Crown Prince Naruhito in April to attend Dutch Prince Willem-Alexander’s coronation.

“I am glad to see that since the visit, she has continued to be well, visiting disaster-afflicted areas and even attending ceremonies together with the Crown Prince,” the Empress said in her response to written questions from reporters.

The Crown Princess, who has been suffering from a stress-induced illness for years, traveled with the Crown Prince in September for a day trip to Koriyama, Fukushima Prefecture, to visit people affected by the March 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster. Earlier this month, the Crown Princess joined the Crown Prince for a classical music concert in Tokyo.

As for her own health, Empress Michiko said she has begun to suffer pain and numbness in her arms and legs due to old age but assured the public that her current condition does not need “constant medication or treatment” and she “will be able to continue” with her duties “without much change.”

The Empress also expressed her concern about the impact of natural disasters such as Typhoon Wipha. The year’s 26th typhoon left many people dead or missing on Izu-Oshima Island.

She also touched on the July death of Masao Yoshida, who headed the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant. He was in command when the plant was hit by tsunami, at times defying his superiors to do what he believed was right to respond to the crisis.

“I mourn his passing and at the same time pray for the safety of the many who are still working at the plant,” the Empress said.

She said, “there are still more than 280,000 people who are living as evacuees, and I continue to think of them often and worry about how they are managing since the disaster (started).”