Japan's Empress Masako, on the occasion of her 60th birthday Saturday, expressed renewed eagerness to "keep walking toward the future" as she thanked those who have supported her throughout the six decades of her life so far.
"I have deep gratitude to everyone who has taken care of me, starting with my parents, who raised me with love," the empress said in a statement released by the Imperial Household Agency, adding that she felt "disbelief" at reaching her diamond jubilee.
Reflecting on events since entering the imperial family in 1993 with her marriage to then Crown Prince Naruhito, now emperor, the empress said that the Great Hanshin Earthquake in 1995 and the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami in 2011 were "realities that had to be accepted with profound shock and sorrow."
She also lamented the lives lost in global conflicts, particularly those claiming the lives of children, stressing the importance of "understanding and respecting others through dialogue to build a peaceful world."
The empress expressed relief at the easing of the coronavirus pandemic and gratitude for the dedication of health care workers.
She recounted the warm hospitality and her joy of interacting with locals when visiting regional areas in Japan. She also described a goodwill visit to Indonesia in June as "a memorable stay filled with valuable experiences" despite initial reservations as she had not traveled abroad for official duties in quite some time.
A Harvard- and Oxford-educated former diplomat, the empress has been struggling with adjustment disorder since December 2003 while she was still crown princess and had made few public appearances until becoming empress.
In a separate statement, her doctors noted that although she is in the process of recovery, her condition fluctuates. They expressed the hope that she would receive sufficient rest to recharge, especially considering her increased attendance at events and ceremonies, as well as visits both in and outside of Japan this year.
With this year marking the couple's 30th wedding anniversary, the empress said the unwavering support of her husband "enabled me to see this day." She also expressed relief that their daughter, Princess Aiko, safely came of age two years ago.
"I hope she will spend the remaining years of her university life meaningfully," the empress said.