Princess Hisako looks back

(From lefr) Crown Prince Naruhito, Prince Akishino, Princess Kiko, Princess Akiko, Princess Hisako and Princess Noriko during the Imperial Autumn Party.

JAPAN - Princess Hisako of Takamado told The Yomiuri Shimbun in a recent interview that she feels as if her husband, who died unexpectedly of a heart attack at the age of 47 in 2002, is merely away from home and will return shortly.

Prince Takamado was extremely popular in his role as intermediary between the Imperial family and the people. Nov. 21 marks the 10th anniversary of his death.

The prince was the third son of Prince Mikasa, Emperor Showa's brother, and Princess Mikasa. After graduating from Gakushuin University and studying in Canada, he worked as a nonregular staff member at the Tokyo-based Japan Foundation.

After marrying his wife in 1984 and establishing the Takamado branch of the Imperial family, he acted as a public relations man for the Imperial family, and enjoyed exchanges with young people who would become the next generation of leaders.

After Prince Takamado died, Princess Hisako took over her husband's official duties in such fields as international goodwill and music and sports, to which her husband was strongly committed. Currently, Princess Hisako acts as president or honorary president of more than 20 organisations.

The following are excerpts of The Yomiuri Shimbun's interview with Princess Hisako.

The Yomiuri Shimbun: The fields you took over from your husband, including football, children's upbringing and sports for the disabled, have developed extremely well in the past 10 years.

Princess Hisako: Prince Takamado liked the term "ichigo ichi e" (once-in-a-lifetime meeting). He energetically supported activities that he thought were good. I do as much as I can. Yes, there are some fields that have developed but I think they developed because of the efforts of the people involved as well as the trend of the times.

Q: On many occasions, you respond with on-the-spot witty answers without relying on a prepared script.

A: It's true that I think on my feet and say what I like when the atmosphere is friendly. As Prince Takamado was good at conveying his intentions through his own words, I behave like him.

Q: You participate in the annual H.I.H. Prince Takamado Trophy All-Japan Inter-Middle School English Oratorical Contest from the management stage and encourage students and children somewhat strictly by saying, "Please cultivate yourself."

A: When I speak with children, I'm apt to look at them from the viewpoint of a mother. I don't want to instruct them but I believe I can give them some suggestions about what they could aim for in the future by offering examples.

Q: You also have devoted yourself to environmental protection.

A: Prince Takamado and myself were interested in this from the beginning. At first, Prince Takamado thought it would be difficult for the Imperial family to become involved in the issue as it related to politics to a certain extent.

However, after careful consideration, he concluded he could express his basic ideas on the issue. For example, in a talk about birds, I might say it would be nice if we could prevent them from becoming extinct as we cannot revive them once they die off.

Q: Do you feel Prince Takamado is always with you?

A: As he died so suddenly, I don't feel he is far from me. I feel as if he will return soon, even today. As I had a lot of opportunities to listen to his ideas, I and my clerical staff would think about what Prince Takamado would do in such and such a case.

I don't really think of it as being 10 years [since he died]. I feel the years only when I consider our daughters' age.

Q: Princess Tsuguko was 16, Princess Noriko was 14 and Princess Ayako was 12 at that time.

A: After Prince Takamado died, I was worried about our daughters and cared for them as much as possible. But I was surprised to learn recently that they were worried about me. They used to wonder, "Do you think mother is OK, as she isn't sleeping much and has lost weight?" Children are reliable, although parents tend to regard them as too young.

Q: Is your position as the head of a branch of the Imperial family a heavy load?

A: Yes, it is. Unlike the time when Prince Takamado was the head, I have to make decisions in everything. I also considered balancing the position with that of a mother.

I told my daughters that once a father dies in a family with children, the mother must work to support the family. When I told them I would be absent from home more frequently as I had to do what their father did, they told me it was natural.

Q: About 20 months have passed since the Great East Japan Earthquake. What will your involvement be in regards to the devastated areas?

A: I was very impressed that people in the devastated areas appeared to be put at ease when the Emperor and Empress spoke to them [disaster survivors].

From my position, I tell them their positive actions in the devastated areas are wonderful. I think it's great if I can cheer people up.

I also think it's important for me to speak with women as a mother who lost her husband and is bringing up children by herself.

Become a fan on Facebook