Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW)/日本からの意見

Clues for Imperial Diplomacy of the Reiwa Era
NISHIKAWA Megumi / Journalist

July 11, 2019
The imperial diplomacy of the Reiwa Era began with the visit of US president Trump and the First Lady as state guests. The era’s start has been substantially different from that of Heisei’s.

The start of Heisei’s imperial diplomacy was funeral diplomacy at the Rites of Imperial Funeral for the Emperor Showa on February 24, 1989, attended by funeral envoys such as heads of state or government and royalty from 164 countries around the world. The new Emperor and Empress, who are the current Emperor and Empress Emeritus, received all the envoys in meetings with heads of state and in audiences with royal guests other than heads of state, Vice Presidents and Prime Ministers, etc. before and after the “Rites of Imperial Funeral”.

The late Mr. Ryohei Murata, the Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs then, who oversaw the event on the spot wrote in his book “Retrospective: Japan’s Diplomacy”, “ some of the representatives of nations stated that they felt profound deference to Their Majesties’ regal demeanor at the rites, specifically, remaining standing resolutely with umbrellas in their hands in the rain. Many of them expressed their sincerest appreciation for Their Majesties’ making their time equally to talk to all the funeral envoys without discriminating any country”.

“Consolation to departed souls” and “reconciliation” resonated like basso continuo in Heisei’s imperial diplomacy. By chance, funeral diplomacy was how it started, but it was indicative of what was to follow.

International goodwill will remain unchanged as the basis for imperial diplomacy in the Reiwa Era. However, it is natural that the imperial diplomacy by the new Emperor and Empress, who belong to the postwar generation, would be different from the one of Heisei. I think “cosmopolitan outlook” and “universal values” are likely to be the keywords.

Their Majesties the Emperor and Empress spent a part of their life before marriage in the UK. International relations tend to be regarded in Japan from an East-West perspective, but when you live in Europe, you will acquire in addition a North-South perspective, including Africa, the Middle East and Central and South America. This is because of the historical, and political/economical relations between Europe and these regions, and we should bear in mind that their Majesties have developed an eye to look at the world globally.

Furthermore, their Majesties were in their 20s and 30s from the mid-80s to the end of the 20th century when the Cold War eased off, “The Berlin Wall” collapsed and the world became globalized. Human rights and democracy became universal values, and a concept of global governance was born, where various players such as nation states, the United Nations, and Non-Governmental Organizations tackle the global problems in concert. Their Majesties fully breathed this air of cooperation and integration.

It is important that Their Majesties are sensitive to the cosmopolitan way of thinking and universal values when thinking about their role as the heir of traditional culture of the imperial household. This is because we feel that imperial diplomacy can deliver messages of “multi-cultural coexistence amid universalism” and “parallel pursuit of universal values and traditional culture”. This can also be what Japan aims for in the world.

The writer is Contributing Editor for the Mainichi Shimbun Newspaper.
The English-Speaking Union of Japan

西川 恵 / ジャーナリスト

2019年 7月 11日








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English Speaking Union of Japan > Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW) > Clues for Imperial Diplomacy of the Reiwa Era