Wednesday 20th October, 06:20 AM JST
Empress Michiko marked her 76th birthday Wednesday and indicated her hopes that the imperial family members will find their future guidance in the footsteps of Emperor Akihito.
Referring to Crown Prince Naruhito, his brother Prince Akishino and their families, the empress said in a statement, ‘‘I am certain that they will find a guiding principle and support in the way His Majesty over the years has proceeded in pursuit of how the imperial family should be and how the emperor should be,’’ when they assume their roles in the future.
‘‘I trust that both the crown prince and Prince Akishino are continuing to nurture carefully the budding potentials they so often showed as infants and boys,’’ she also said.
Meanwhile, Empress Michiko expressed concern over the current state of the crown prince’s family, with Crown Princess Masako continuing to be treated for stress-linked illness and their daughter Princess Aiko attending a limited number of classes at school.
‘‘As the crown prince’s family is now experiencing difficulties related to health and schooling, all of us in the family are watching over them with concern,’’ she said.
‘‘I truly cherish the families of the crown prince and Prince Akishino, and I pray with all my heart for the peace and well-being of each member of their families,’’ she added.
The remarks came in response to reporters’ written questions in time for her birthday.
Asked about her health, as she was diagnosed with a high probability of having a cough variant asthma in September, Empress Michiko said she has been ‘‘blessed with relatively good health’’ but feels she has become ‘‘a lot slower at doing things’’ in the last few years.
‘‘I also often experience symptoms that seem to be caused by aging, such as not being able to find what I am looking fore. I find these incidents amusing at times, but I also feel a bit helpless,’’ she said.
With regard to recent events that left impressions on her, she named the foot-and-mouth disease outbreak in Miyazaki Prefecture, along with several other topics including extreme summer heat and two Japanese researchers receiving the Nobel Prize in chemistry.
‘‘My heart goes out to the people of Miyazaki Prefecture who, before the end of the foot-and-mouth disease was formally declared, had to dispose of nearly 290,000 cows and pigs and I feel deep sorrow that they had to bury in such a way the animals that had been almost like family to them,’’ she said.
In April, the foot-and-mouth disease hit livestock in the southern prefecture, leading to the massive slaughtering of cows and pigs for preventing further spread of the disease until the Miyazaki government declared the end of the epidemic in August.
She added the incident also made her ‘‘think deeply about the pain’’ of those who found the animals with the disease and those who had to vaccinate them and cull them.