About 1,900 people, including Olympic judo gold medalist Ryoko Tamura and Nobel Prize winner Hideki Shirakawa, on Tuesday attended a spring garden party hosted by the Emperor and Empress.
The attendants included Cabinet members, politicians, heads of local governments, local assembly members, and foreign ambassadors and their spouses.
A similar party planned for last autumn was canceled as it fell during the mourning period for the late Empress Dowager, posthumously known as Empress Kojun, who died in June.
The party was held in the garden of the Akasaka Palace in Tokyo.
The Crown Princess, who is thought to be pregnant, was absent from the event.
“You really did a good job for 11 years,” the Emperor told Tamura, who won gold at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games and also recently became the first Japanese to win the Fukuoka women’s international judo championship 11 years in a row.
Officials of the Imperial Household Agency said Tamura congratulated the Crown Prince on his wife’s reported pregnancy, to which the Crown Prince replied, “I am also asked by Masako to congratulate you.”
Princess Sayako, who turns 32 today, cited her experience with victims of the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake that devastated Kobe and its surrounding vicinities as one of her lasting impressions of the past year.
“I could not find words adequate enough to express my thoughts, for though I understood what that Jan. 17 meant to each of them, I realized that it was well beyond my imagination,” she said in a written response to the media ahead of her birthday.
The princess, daughter of the Emperor and Empress and better known as Princess Nori, was referring to her visit in January to the site of the earthquake six years after it struck on Jan. 17, 1995, claiming more than 6,400 lives.
There, she joined a “memorial walk” that traced an evacuation and transportation route used after the quake as part of events commemorating it. “I was able to have an idea of the hardships and difficulties endured,” she said.
Princess Sayako also expressed her delight at her three-nation trip to Slovakia, Slovenia and Ireland in October, recalling the warm reception she received and how she came “into contact with the historical and cultural heritage of each country.”
“It also made me think of the strength of nations that have come through the rigors and complexity of their past history, the cultural and human wealth of their country and their role in the world,” she said of her trip.
Princess Sayako, who is studying bird species, mentioned how a recently conducted census on the species in the Imperial Palace grounds struck her as something “of great interest.”
Through the census, in which she took part, she said she was able “to know that the nature within the palace, which was thought to be a totally isolated area although situated in the heart of our metropolis, is in fact influenced by the world surrounding it.”
According to the census report, about 5,000 species of flora and fauna have been found in the Imperial Palace grounds.
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