Empress Masako of Japan has conducted her first official duties in her own capacity this week, after the accession of her husband, Emperor Naruhito.
Empress Masako succeeded her mother-in-law Empress Emerita Michiko as honorary president of the Japanese Red Cross Society on 1 May and has now appeared at the annual gathering in Tokyo. The event at the Meiji Jingu hall in Shibuya Ward was also attended by her sister-in-law, Crown Princess Kiko, who is the honorary vice-president of the Japanese Red Cross Society, and other members of the Imperial Family. The 55-year-old Empress gave a speech to the dignitaries at the charity’s headquarters. One year ago, when she was still Crown Princess, Masako visited the same venue with her mother-in-law, but it had been the first time in 15 years she had taken part in the annual event.
In a statement released by the Imperial Household Agency on – then Crown Princess – Masako’s 55th birthday, vowed to make her best effort to serve the people. “I want to devote myself to the happiness of the people so I will make an effort to that end while gaining more experience,” the Crown Princess declared. She added that she was “filled with deep emotions and feels nostalgic” about her birthday that year being the last one in the Heisei era. The Heisei era ended when Emperor Akihito abdicated.
Masako also expressed her gratitude to the Emperor Emeritus and his wife, Empress Emerita Michiko, saying they “warmly welcomed me and generously continued guiding and watching over us” since her marriage to the Crown Prince. “I wish from the bottom of my heart (the Imperial Couple) will unwind from their busy life and spend peaceful days.” Masako has been struggling with an adjustment disorder since 2003 and has been slowly improving. She attended the biannual Imperial garden party last year for the first time in 15 years. “I am delighted at the fact that I can perform more duties than before as I have tried to improve my physical condition,” she said.