It was just around this time last year that the global financial crisis occurred, and the economy worsened in Japan as well, leaving many people to face hardships. People lost jobs, homes, and opportunities to further their education, and many graduates who had initially been told they would be hired by companies had those job offers revoked. These hardships faced by the people were what worried me the most this past year. A new strain of influenza, the H1N1, which broke out in the first half of the year, is showing signs of becoming a worldwide pandemic, and as we enter the cold winter season, I hope that the damage from this can be contained as much as possible.Happy birthday!
This year, with the introduction of the lay judge system, much attention and interest have focused on the judicial system in Japan. It was also a year of major changes in the political world, brought about by a change in government. In the United States, a new administration was launched, and soon after taking office, President Obama made a speech in Prague, expressing his strong determination to eliminate nuclear weapons. This month, the Nobel Committee awarded President Obama with this year's Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of his leadership role in trying to create a world free of nuclear weapons, as well as for his other efforts, expressing the Committee's endorsement and support for the President's initiatives. The horror of nuclear weapons lies, in addition to the magnitude of the destruction, in the enormity and misery of the effects of radiation which continue to afflict the victims long afterwards. As a country which has suffered atomic bombings, I believe that Japan should make efforts to seek further and deeper understanding of this from the international community.
A year has passed since a young Japanese aid worker working on the construction of an irrigation channel in Afghanistan lost his life in a terrorist attack. I learned that the construction in which he was involved from an early stage was completed in August this year, opening irrigation channels extending 24 kilometers in eastern Afghanistan. Hearing that there is now greenery spreading around the channels, and recalling the time His Majesty and I visited Afghanistan in 1971, I was deeply moved, thinking of the joy of the local people who will eventually be able to farm there.
This year marks two milestones, the 20th year of His Majesty's accession to the throne and our 50th wedding anniversary. It made me happy that many people in Japan so kindly celebrated our golden wedding anniversary in April, and again in July in Canada and in Hawaii when His Majesty and I visited there.
I hope that His Majesty will celebrate in good health the 20th anniversary of His accession to the throne this autumn and that the various events related to the ceremony will all be carried out smoothly. This is the sincere wish of all of us in the family.