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LEAD: Princess Sayako turns 35, voices relief over hostage release.

TOKYO, April 18 Kyodo

(EDS: UPDATING ANSWER ON HOSTAGES IN IRAQ)

Princess Sayako marked her 35th birthday Sunday and in a statement to the press expressed relief over the release of five Japanese nationals who had been abducted in Iraq.

''Concerning the abduction of Japanese nationals in Iraq, I was relieved to hear the news of their release,'' she said, referring to the three Japanese who returned to Japan on Sunday following their release Thursday, also mentioning the release Saturday of the other two.

''I think of the relief of their families and my thoughts go to all the persons from the government and other related parties who have worked so hard for their release,'' she said.

The princess, however, expressed sadness over the state of security in the world amid continuing terrorism. She said she hopes peace will prevail in countries affected by such attacks.

''It is most regrettable that events in the world of the past year that come to mind are colored by images of war,'' she said in the statement released by the Imperial Household Agency on the occasion of her birthday.

In a written response to reporters' questions, the princess said, ''It is sad that we have become accustomed to the word 'terrorism' in daily life, and to have reached a stage in which almost every day the tally of victims is released by the press. It is my sincerest hope that peace may be achieved in those countries.''

On the bird flu epidemic that hit Japan and dealt a blow to food safety, Princess Sayako, an ornithologist, expressed hope that it ''will not lead to further irrational fear of wild birds or attempts to eliminate them.''

Apart from her official functions, Princess Sayako works at the Yamashina Institute for Ornithology, where she has been involved in kingfisher research.

Referring to Emperor Akihito who celebrated his 70th birthday last year, the princess said her parents' efforts over the years center on ''preserving time-honored traditions'' and ''reaching out to the people on a daily basis.''

The only daughter of Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko, Princess Sayako is popularly known among Japanese as Princess Nori.
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Publication:Japan Policy & Politics
Date:Apr 19, 2004
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