October 20, 2017 – On the occasion of her 83rd birthday today, Empress Michiko welcomed the award this year of the Nobel Peace Prize to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons as a meaningful development in efforts to eliminate nuclear weapons.
The Geneva-based nongovernmental organization has been working with survivors of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombings to pass on their experiences.
“I feel it is most significant that, owing to the efforts of the atomic bomb survivors in Hiroshima and Nagasaki over many long years, the world seems to have finally turned its attention to the inhumanity of nuclear weapons and the horrifying consequences once they are used,” she said in a statement.
She also touched on Japan’s “complicated” position on the nuclear arms issue as the country relies on the nuclear deterrence provided by the United States.
“At the same time, I hope that the people of the world will take more notice that the hearts of Japan’s atomic bomb survivors have never been directed towards retaliation, which sets off a chain of more fighting, but towards the pursuit of a peaceful future,” the empress said.
While recalling major events over the past 12 months including the change of administration in the United States, Britain’s formal notification of an exit from the European Union, and terrorist attacks around the world, the empress cited the appointment of Izumi Nakamitsu as the U.N. undersecretary general and high representative for disarmament affairs as very memorable.
Nakamitsu’s words helped in looking at “disarmament” from a broader perspective, the empress said.
“I have come to learn that part of the work of disarmament lies in viewing disarmament not in a narrow, confined sense of ‘disarmament’, but from a more integrated perspective that encompasses other domains, such as the economy, society, and the environment, and preventing potential conflict in a region by, for instance, assisting with its sustainable economic growth,” the empress noted.
With regard to the enactment in June of the law to allow Emperor Akihito to abdicate, the empress said she is “profoundly grateful” for people who paved the way for his retirement.
“It means that His Majesty, after having devoted Himself for so many years to pursuing the role of the Emperor as the symbol of the State, will now, in His advancing years, be able to spend some days of calm and quiet,” the empress said. That prospect “gives me an immeasurable sense of relief,” she added.
The empress also wrote that her travels with the emperor across the country in their official capacity have become deeply emotional given the limited time remaining before the emperor relinquishes his throne.
“The beauty of each place struck me even more deeply than usual as I traveled around the country,” she said.