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2009年11月12日 (木)

社説:即位20年 「象徴天皇」へ実践重ね

(Mainichi Japan) November 12, 2009
Emperor opened new era for Imperial Family as symbol of state
社説:即位20年 「象徴天皇」へ実践重ね

A ceremony was held Thursday to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the enthronement of Emperor Akihito. We would like to express our congratulations to His Majesty.

Over the past 20 years, the Emperor has pursued how he should function as the symbol of the state and for the unity of the people as defined by the post-war Constitution. He has also blown fresh air into the Imperial Family and appears to have established his own style as symbol of state.

Emperor Akihito is the first Emperor to accede to the Imperial Throne under the current Constitution. On the occasion of his enthronement, the Emperor declared that he will "uphold the Constitution of Japan with the people and fulfill my duties in accordance with it (the Constitution)."

The interpretation of "an Emperor as the symbol of the state and for the unity of the people" had not been established by the time he acceded to the throne.

His father, Emperor Showa, assumed the throne when an Emperor was defined by the Meiji Constitution as the ruler of the country, and became the symbol of Japan after the current Constitution was enacted after World War II.

Even though the Imperial Household Agency attempted to make the Imperial Family open to the public, the people had an image that Emperor Showa was a sovereign lord. In that sense, Emperor Akihito has been in a position to open a new era for the Imperial Family.

At a news conference prior to a ceremony Thursday to celebrate the 20th anniversary, Emperor Akihito cited the collapse of the Berlin Wall in 1989 as the most impressive event he has seen since he assumed the throne. His enthronement coincided with the beginning of turbulent changes going on in the world.

The Emperor has been active in a wide diversity of fields. As a symbolic Emperor who is supposed to pray for peace and the happiness of the people, Emperor Akihito has visited sites of battles during World War II to console the souls of the war dead. Since he acceded to the throne, the Emperor has visited more than 30 countries to promote international friendship. He is also enthusiastic about supporting disabled people as is shown by his efforts to promote sports events for the disabled.

His actions have been occasionally inconsistent with the Imperial Family's custom and ideas. For example, when he visited shelters for disaster victims and nursing care homes, the Emperor and the Empress often sat on the floor, took victims' hands and talked with them. Such actions by the Imperial Couple initially surprised people around him.

Before delivering speeches at national athletic meets and tree-planting ceremonies, the Emperor reportedly sat up late at night frequently to review and brush up the manuscripts.

Over the past 20 years, there have been numerous global challenges caused by the end of the Cold War, the advent of the information-oriented era, ethnic and religious conflicts, terrorism, environmental destruction and famine. A sense of political and economic uncertainty is prevailing in Japan as a result of the aging of the population, the declining birthrate, the recession and high unemployment rates.

When asked about his views on these challenges at the recent news conference, he answered, "I'm rather concerned that past history may be gradually forgotten."

"The 60-plus years of the Showa Era taught us many lessons. I believe it is essential for us to learn from the historical facts and prepare ourselves for the future," he continued.

His efforts to keep in mind painful lessons learned from the past and fully utilize the lessons reflect His Majesty's distinctive attitude.

There are many challenges in the Imperial Family, such as how to ensure a stable Imperial succession system in the future. There may be calls for a review of the role that the Imperial Family should play. It is important for the people to consider and discuss how the Imperial Family should function.

毎日新聞 2009年11月12日 東京朝刊


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