On the occasion of his 59th birthday on Saturday, Crown Prince Naruhito expressed his resolve to fulfill his new role as the next emperor after he accedes the throne on May 1, saying he will follow the path demonstrated by his parents.
“I would like to pursue my duties as the symbol (of the state) by always being beside the Japanese citizens, and sharing joy and sorrow with the people,” the Crown Prince said in his last news conference in that role, held Thursday ahead of his birthday.
The Crown Prince also expressed his readiness to explore new possibilities while continuing the legacy of Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko, saying, “I would like to pursue what is required of the Imperial family in accordance with the changing times.”
Looking back at the years that have passed since he became first in line to the throne, upon the death of his grandfather, Emperor Hirohito, and Emperor Akihito’s accession in 1989, the Crown Prince said he has been making efforts to engage with the people.
“I have been trying to hold various exchanges with the people … so I can properly sense what the Imperial family should do for them,” he said, adding that he wishes to maintain that approach as a “pillar” of his activities in the future.
The 85-year-old Emperor hinted at his desire to abdicate in a rare video message that went on air in August 2016, citing concern that his age and weakening health may one day stop him from fulfilling the duties of the “symbol of the state,” as stated in Japan’s postwar Constitution.
In June 2017, Japan enacted one-off legislation enabling the Emperor to step down. The abdication date was later set as April 30 this year, to be followed by Crown Prince Naruhito’s succession the following day.
The Crown Prince said the guidance he had heard from his parents over the years would serve as “major guideposts” in performing his official duties as the new emperor. His activities are expected to exceed those performed by the current Emperor, whose duties have been streamlined in recent years to alleviate their burden.
Asked by reporters about his opinion on the future of the Imperial family, the Crown Prince also said he would adhere to the basic principle of remaining with the people while adjusting to the times, a statement he has repeatedly made in the past.