The greatest joy of their marriage is that they have been able to enjoy their 50th anniversary in good health and Empress Michiko’s good sense of humor has made their relationship even happier, Emperor Akihito told a news conference earlier this week to mark the matrimonial milestone.

The Imperial Couple’s comments, made at a news conference Wednesday, were published after an embargo on the transcriptions was lifted for Friday morning’s newspapers.

“I think that first and foremost, it is that we have both been able to reach this 50th wedding anniversary in good health. I think it has been a joy for us to be able to talk together about everything,” the Emperor said.

“The Empress is a serious person, but she can also be funny and she is a lot of fun. I think that there has always been laughter in our home,” the Emperor was quoted as saying.

When the two announced their engagement in 1958, it became a public sensation because Michiko was a commoner and it would be a true romance rather than the usual unions that are prearranged for the Imperial family.

But when asked what his exact words were when he proposed, neither the Emperor, 75, nor Empress, 74, could remember how their marriage came together.

“I recall that we spoke over the telephone many times before the Empress finally accepted,” he said. “I would not say that it was anything as simple as a one-line proposal.”

“I was truly happy when she accepted my proposal,” he said.

Empress Michiko seconded her husband’s statements and said she would like to give him a “Citation of Appreciation and Gratitude” with “all my heart.”

The Empress initially had difficulty adjusting to the rigid traditions maintained by the Imperial Household Agency, a trying and secretive experience that has turned Crown Princess Masako into a recluse.

“Fifty years ago, when I left an ordinary family to join the new environment of the Imperial family, my heart was filled with uncertainty and anxiety,” she said. “For me to be here today by his majesty’s side, welcoming our golden wedding anniversary, truly seems to be as if in a dream.”

The Empress, however, also suggested that some of these “traditions” be firmly maintained while others that only amount to formalities be discarded.

“Living with traditions is at times difficult, but we sometimes realize how strong and rich a nation, society or families can be because of traditions,” she said.

“On the other hand, traditions that remain only in form can stand in the way of social progress, and there are instances in which old customs, continued in the name of tradition, can cause people to suffer. I do not like this word to be used lightly,” the Empress said, without elaborating.

Crown Princess Masako has been undergoing treatment for “adjustment disorder,” a stress-related malady that has left her unable to completely perform her public duties.

After several years of pressure and speculation, the Crown Princess gave birth to Princess Aiko, but Imperial tradition states that only a male can ascend the throne to become an emperor.

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