On the occasion of her 83rd birthday Friday, Empress Michiko welcomed the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize this year to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, saying it is “significant” that the world seems to be paying closer attention to the horrors of nuclear weapons.
The Empress also expressed an “immeasurable sense of relief” over her 83-year-old husband Emperor Akihito’s expected handover of the Chrysanthemum Throne to Crown Prince Naruhito, which will be the first Imperial abdication in Japan in 200 years.
Referring to the Nobel Prize presented to ICAN, the Empress said in a statement, “I feel it is most significant that, owing to the efforts of the atomic bomb survivors in Hiroshima and Nagasaki over many long years, the world seems to have finally turned its attention to the inhumanity of nuclear weapons and the horrifying consequences once they are used.”
The Geneva-based body is a coalition of nongovernment organizations in more than 100 countries and has been working with survivors of the 1945 Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombings.
The Empress also touched on Japan’s “complicated” position on the nuclear arms issue. Japan relies on the nuclear deterrence provided by the United States, and along with the world’s major powers, did not vote in favor of adopting the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in July.
“At the same time, I hope that the people of the world will take more notice that the hearts of Japan’s atomic bomb survivors have never been directed toward retaliation, which sets off a chain of more fighting, but toward the pursuit of a peaceful future,” she said.
While recalling major events over the past 12 months including the change of administration in the United States, Britain’s formal notification to leave the European Union, and terrorist attacks around the world, the Empress said the appointment of Izumi Nakamitsu as U.N. undersecretary-general and high representative for disarmament affairs impressed her particularly.
The Empress said that thanks to Nakamitsu she has come to learn that the work of disarmament lies not only in the activity itself but also incorporates a more integrated perspective encompassing other domains, such as the economy, society and the environment.
“This made me glad and I felt that the concept would help deepen my interest in this field in the future,” she said.
With regard to the enactment in June of the law to allow Emperor Akihito to abdicate, the Empress said she is “profoundly grateful” to the people who paved the way for his retirement.
“It means that his majesty, after having devoted himself for so many years to pursuing the role of the Emperor as the symbol of the state, will now, in his advancing years, be able to spend some days of calm and quiet,” the Empress said.
The Empress also wrote that her travels with the Emperor across the country in their official capacity have become deeply emotional given the limited time remaining before he relinquishes the throne.
“The beauty of each place struck me even more deeply than usual as I traveled around the country,” she said.
The Empress also said her visit to Vietnam earlier this year with the Emperor was “unforgettable,” noting that the “deep connections” between the two countries include former Japanese soldiers who remained in Southeast Asia for a while after World War II and formed families with their Vietnamese spouses.
Celebratory events for her birthday were held at the Imperial Palace on Friday.