Per the Belgian royal court (rough translation):
“On the eve of Christmas and New Year, I am pleased to speak with you.
On my accession to the throne, you have given me an unforgettable welcome. I was struck by the intensity of trade between the persons involved in this massive day. Your enthusiasm and confidence have really moved me.
Since July 21, my wife and I met a great many of you. Our happy entries and contacts have enabled us to discuss with you your concerns and your hopes. We learned more about the lives in the most diverse sectors of society. I met the Ministers of Culture and artists from North and South of the country for an exchange of wealth as a result of the cultural agreement between the Federation Wallonia-Brussels and Flanders. I want to continue and deepen this dialogue we have begun to develop with you.
In 2013, our country is highlighted in several areas. The quality of our scientific research has been recognized and encouraged by the award of the Nobel Prize in Physics. Our B-Fast team made a very effective emergency aid to the Philippines. Our military is engaged in successful operations peacekeeping. Our top athletes win deserved success. With you, I am glad that our Red Devils participate in the World Cup football. Beside that, there is also the result of the daily work of each of you.
All these successes can not hide the difficulties. In our country, one out of four is not working and one in seven people live in poverty. Closures and restructuring has hit us very hard. Too many people live in isolation.
In a difficult socio-economic context, the federal government and regional governments have taken positive steps to consolidate public finances, protect our purchasing power and our competitiveness, support our businesses and maintain our social model. I am confident that this effort will continue.
In recent months and in recent years, my wife and I met many young Belgians overflowing with creativity and energy. We also met people whose talents could not occur or be recognized.
To flourish qualities everyone is everyone’s responsibility. Education and training are essential levers for it. They transmit knowledge, preparing for employment, integration into society and the exercise of citizenship. Developing critical thinking and teamwork, they give young people the opportunity to become men and women engaged and responsible. As parents, my wife and I greet you with the admirable work of teachers and educators. We know that the task is difficult.
It is equally important to build relationships between all components of our society. The links between school and the world of work. Because whenever education and businesses open the one to the other, new job opportunities emerge. The links between generations. The elderly are a major source of experience and wisdom to the young. And, finally, the links between all Belgians.
There fortnight I was in South Africa to honor Nelson Mandela, who so personified the desire to build bridges. Mandela showed us that dialogue and reconciliation can change the world. That inner strength can also be ours.
Ladies and gentlemen, at this time of celebration where we gather with our loved ones, our thoughts go out to all those who suffer and are lonely. We wish you all a Merry Christmas and a very happy New Year.”
On the afternoon of December 23, 2013, His Imperial Majesty Emperor Akihito of Japan accompanied by Her Imperial Majesty Empress Michiko of Japan, Their Imperial Highnesses Crown Prince Naruhito and Crown Princess Masako of Japan, Their Imperial Highnesses Prince Akishino and Princess Kiko of Japan and their daughter made a balcony appearance at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo on the occasion of the emperor’s 80th birthday.
According to the Imperial Household Agency after the balcony appearance His Imperial Majesty held an audience with the Prime Minister of Japan, Mr. Shinzō Abe, as well as with:
“…the chair of the House of Councillors, and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, after which His Majesty will be joined by other members of the Imperial Family at a celebratory luncheon attended by the heads of the three branches of government, members of the Cabinet, and representatives of various fields. This will be followed by tea with the diplomatic corps, tea with former senior officials of the Imperial Household Agency, and tea with lecturers and other guests.
In the evening, His Majesty will receive birthday greetings from Her Imperial Highness Princess Aiko and other young Princesses and Prince of the Imperial Family. Later, His Majesty will sit down to a celebratory birthday dinner with Her Majesty, the children and their spouses…”
Recently, His Imperial Majesty Emperor Akihito of Japan held a press conference in Tokyo held on the occasion of his 80th birthday on December 23, 2013.
During the press event His Imperial Majesty spoke about his official duties, the March 11, 2011, 9.0 earthquake off the Tōhoku coast and the devastating tsunami that followed, and much more.
Here is what His Imperial Majesty had to say per the Imperial Household Agency:
“As Your Majesty celebrates Your eightieth birthday, sanju, on December 23rd, we will soon be marking a quarter-century since the start of Your era of Heisei. In the course of the Showa era and the current Heisei era, we have lived through a world war, its aftermath and subsequent recovery, numerous natural disasters, and difficult economic times. Your Majesty has also undergone two major surgeries. Looking back on Your eighty years, please tell us about any events that have left special impressions on You, and also, about Your thoughts on turning eighty, and how You would like to lead Your life in the coming years.
Regarding the question on what events have left me with special impressions over the past eighty years, I would say that what stands out most in my mind is the Second World War. Japan was already at war with China by the time I reached school age. The following year, on December 8th, Japan also entered into war with the United States, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands, in addition to China. I was in my last year of elementary school when the war ended. About 3.1 million Japanese people are said to have lost their lives in that war. It still pains me deeply to think that so many people, who must have had various dreams and hopes for the future, lost their lives at a young age.
After the war, Japan was occupied by the allied forces, and based on peace and democracy as values to be upheld, established the Constitution of Japan, undertook various reforms and built the foundation of Japan that we know today. I have profound gratitude for the efforts made by the Japanese people at the time who helped reconstruct and improve the country devastated by the war. I also feel that we must not forget the help extended to us in those days by Americans with an understanding of Japan and Japanese culture. Today, more than sixty years since the end of the war, we have seen that, in the face of major disasters such as the Great East Japan Earthquake [March 11, 2011], there are so many people in Japan who value the bonds between people, can deal with various situations calmly, and work hard towards reconstruction. I have found this most reassuring.
On reaching the age of eighty, I feel fortunate that I am able to lead a life always feeling gratitude to those who have rebuilt Japan and who continue to commit themselves across the nation to the betterment and development of our country in various ways. Having already lived eighty years, I am somewhat perplexed by the question about my life in the coming years, but I would say that, while accepting the limits arising from age, I hope to continue to fulfill my role as best I can.
Over the course of the eighty years of my life, there have been many ties and encounters with various people, starting with Emperor Showa, from all of whom I have learned much, both directly and indirectly. I am indebted to the Imperial Household Agency and the Imperial Guard Headquarters, and I feel grateful that I have been supported by so many sincere and devoted people to this day.
Being an emperor can be a lonely state. But with my marriage, I gained a partner who shares my appreciation for the things that I value. It has given me comfort and joy to have by my side the Empress, who has always respected my position and stood by me, and I feel most fortunate that I have been able to endeavor to carry out my role as Emperor with the Empress by my side.
I shall continue to pray every day for the happiness of the people and carry out my duties for the people.
For many years Your Majesties have visited facilities for children on Children’ s Day and facilities for the elderly on Respect for the Aged Day. The Imperial Household Agency announced that after next year Your Majesties will pass on these duties to the younger generation. We understand that these decisions concerning the passing on of official duties are based on regular discussions between Your Majesty and Their Imperial Highnesses the Crown Prince and Prince Akishino. Would You tell us about Your current health and Your thoughts on passing on these official duties to the younger generation?
Since 1992, the Empress and I have been visiting facilities for children to commemorate Children’ s Day and facilities for the elderly on Respect for the Aged Day. From the year after next, however, we have decided to pass on these visits to the younger generation. We were in our fifties when we started this tradition, but the Empress and I will both be in our eighties by 2015. We already have quite an age gap with the children, while we will be around the same age as the elderly citizens. In two years the Crown Prince will be in his mid-fifties, which is around the age when we began our visits.
For these reasons, we felt it desirable to pass on these duties to the younger generation after next year. My health has had no bearing on this decision.
Regarding the passing on of official duties for the purpose of reducing my burden, as I said in my birthday press conference last year, I would like to maintain the status quo for the time being.
This year we saw much discussion regarding the relationship between politics and the activities of the Imperial Family, such as activities related to the bid to host the Olympic Games. Would Your Majesty tell us about Your thoughts on the role of the Imperial Family and its activities?
The Constitution of Japan stipulates, ‘The Emperor shall perform only such acts in matters of state as are provided for in this Constitution and he shall not have powers related to government.’ It is compliance with these provisions of the Constitution that I have in mind as I define my activities as emperor.
In the case of the bid to host the Olympic Games mentioned in the question, the purpose was clear, but there may be instances when it is more difficult to judge whether or not a particular activity has to do with state affairs. When this happens, I try to seek the advice of the Grand Steward and Special Advisors, who are capable of considering these issues as objectively and legally as possible. In this case, the Special Advisors, the Grand Steward, and others gave much careful thought into whether or not it touched on state affairs. It is my intention to continue to attend to my duties in a manner compliant with the Constitution.
Your Majesty recently visited India with Her Majesty the Empress and further deepened the friendly relations between Japan and India. Would You tell us Your thoughts on Your first official visit to India in 53 years, and would You also share with us any points You bear in mind when promoting international goodwill?
This visit to India was to commemorate the landmark year of the sixtieth anniversary of diplomatic relations between Japan and India.
When I first visited India it was as a representative of Emperor Showa to reciprocate the state visit to Japan by then President Rajendra Prasad. This was before legal provisions were made to allow others to temporarily substitute for the Emperor in His affairs of state, so it fell on me to make the visit on His behalf.
As I recall, it was not long after India had gained independence and President Prasad was the first president of India. I think it was a time when India was working hard to build a fledgling nation. We also met Vice President Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, who later became President, and Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. They were all well-known around the world as thinkers. Looking back on that visit even now, I feel that it was a meaningful visit.
Before then, I had read comparatively more books on European and Chinese history, as there were not many books on the history of the region that lay between Europe and China and there was a lot that was unknown. Through the visit, I feel I was blessed with the opportunity to learn about the history of the countries that lay between Europe and China.
On visiting India this time, because of my previous visit, I did have a certain amount of knowledge about the country, but I also felt that there was much greater interest in Japan and deeper interaction between the two countries now than the last time I was there.
For example, we observed the students at the Jawaharlal Nehru University having discussions in Japanese, and their discussions, all in Japanese, were very impressive. I was also struck by the Indian boy we met in a park who was thinking seriously about local environmental issues. From the many things we saw and heard, I received the impression that we can expect high hopes for future exchanges with India and for the development of the country itself.”
On Wednesday, December 18, 2013, His Majesty King Abdullah II of Jordan held an audience at Al-Hummar Palace in Amman with the President of the Arab Parliament, Mr. Ahmad Jarwan, and with an “…accompanying delegation currently participating in a conference of the Arab Parliament whose committees began meetings in Amman earlier this week…” according to Petra News.
On Thursday, December 19, 2013, His Majesty King Philippe of Belgium arrived at the Palais d’Egmont in Brussels to participate in a meeting “…organized by IMMOBEL, the Compagnie Immobilière de Belgique, held on the occasion of the company’s 150th anniversary and listing on the Bourse de Bruxelles (BSE)…” according to the Belgian royal court.
Established in 2005 Jobben provides job training for former drug addicts.
During today’s visit Her Majesty met with staff, volunteers, individuals participating in the Jobben program, toured a candle making as well as carpentry workshop and much more.
Photo courtesy of Kongehuset
On December 19, 2013, Her Majesty Queen Sofia of Spain participated in a meeting with members of the Fundación Comité Español de los Colegios del Mundo Unido in Madrid.
On the evening of December 19, 2013, Their Majesties King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia of Sweden accompanied by Their Royal Highnesses Crown Princess Victoria and Prince Daniel of Sweden, His Royal Highness Prince Carl Philip of Sweden, and Her Royal Highness Princess Madeleine and Mr. Christopher O’Neill attended a gala performance at the Oscarsteatern in Stockholm in celebration of Her Majesty Queen Silvia’s upcoming 70th birthday on December 23.
Photo courtesy of Kungahuset
On December 19, 2013, Their Royal Highnesses Prince Felipe and Princess Letizia of Asturias arrived at the Ciudad Financiera del Grupo Santander in Madrid to participate in the “…presentation of the 2013-2014 Becas Santander CRUE-CEPYME Prácticas en Empresa (Santander Scholarships CRUE CEPYME Practices in Business) ceremony…” according to the Spanish royal court.
Please click here to view photos.
And, that’s it. 🙂
Photo courtesy of the Palais Princier