Video footage released by the Imperial Household Agency to mark Crown Prince Naruhito's 59th birthday on Feb. 23 shows him relaxing with his wife, Crown Princess Masako. (Video footage provided by the Imperial Household Agency)

Crown Prince Naruhito is under no illusions about the huge responsibility that awaits him on May 1 when he is scheduled to ascend the Chrysanthemum Throne, saying he draws inspiration from his parents' example and that of other emperors.

"I want to fulfill the role of symbol of the state by constantly being together with the people and sharing in their joy as well as sadness," the heir-in-waiting said at a news conference held Feb. 21 to mark his 59th birthday on Feb. 23.

Naruhito commented that he had many opportunities to reflect on the task ahead since August 2016, when his father Emperor Akihito released a video message to the nation in which he indicated his intention to abdicate in favor of his older son.

Naruhito said the emperor and Empress Michiko have served as "large guide posts" for his own future as they had often told him about what was expected of him.

Indicating that he would follow the example of not only his father, but other past emperors, Naruhito said, "It will be important to continue seeking out what a symbol of the state should be as well as the most desirable form for such a role while praying for the happiness of the people as I share in their good times and bad."

In reflecting on the Heisei Era over which Akihito has been emperor since 1989, Naruhito described it as an "age that witnessed greater diversity in the lifestyles and value systems held by the people."

He added, "It will be important to accept that diversity with a spirit of tolerance while seeking to further develop it through the mutual encouragement of each other."

But Naruhito also said that a "new wind" always blows in each new age and that he would also continue to seek out the proper role for the imperial family in line with the changing times.

Touching on his many years of research in various issues and problems related to water usage, Naruhito said he hoped to utilize what he has learned to mitigate the effects of natural disasters.

The crown prince said that he has always striven to mix with a wide range of people so as to gain a better grasp of what role imperial family members should play. He pledged to continue doing so, as a main pillar after becoming emperor.

Naruhito said his wife, Crown Princess Masako, was still on the road toward full recovery from past health problems and that it was unlikely she would be able to fulfill all of her duties soon after becoming the new empress. He said she needed more time to regain her health.

However, Naruhito also expressed the hope that Masako could take advantage of her experiences overseas prior to their marriage to become more involved in international activities.

Naruhito was asked about a comment made by his younger brother, Prince Fumihito, raising doubts about using public funds to pay for the Daijosai, a key ceremony for the new emperor in which offerings are made to imperial ancestors and the gods.

Naruhito only said that it was his understanding that the decision had been made after government officials took into careful consideration past precedent and other factors.

(This article was written by Ayako Nakada and Akiko Tada.)