King Charles welcomes Japanese emperor, empress on state visit

by Jun 25, 2024Featured Article, News

Britain’s King Charles and Queen Camilla officially welcomed Japan’s Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako in a ceremony Tuesday, marking the start of a three-day state visit to the country.

It is the first state visit to Britain by a sitting emperor since then-Emperor Akihito’s in 1998 and is the Japanese couple’s second goodwill overseas visit since Emperor Naruhito ascended the throne in May 2019.

The Japanese royals, who arrived in the country on Saturday, were earlier greeted by Prince William, first in line to the British throne, at their central London hotel before travelling to Horse Guards Parade for the ceremonial welcome accompanied by a 41-gun salute.

Alongside the royal family, the imperial couple exchanged greetings with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, as well as Foreign Secretary David Cameron and Home Secretary James Cleverly.

King Charles, who was diagnosed with cancer in February, and the emperor inspected a guard of honor, formed of the 1st Battalion Welsh Guards with the Band of the Welsh Guards, who played the Japanese national anthem “Kimigayo” and the traditional folk song “Sakura Sakura” (cherry blossoms) during the inspection.

The royal party then traveled up the Mall in a procession of horse-drawn carriages to the king’s official residence. The route was lined with the flags of Britain and Japan.

The emperor and empress had lunch at Buckingham Palace, after which they toured a Royal Collection exhibition in its Picture Gallery featuring items from Japan, and then lay a wreath at the Grave of the Unknown Warrior in Westminster Abbey.

In the evening, the king and queen hosted a state banquet at Buckingham Palace where the king and emperor will give speeches.

The state visit, also including a visit to the Francis Crick Institute, Britain’s flagship biomedical research center, will formally finish on Thursday morning when the king and queen bid farewell.

The imperial couple will not be staying at Buckingham Palace during their visit as the building is undergoing an extensive refurbishment.

After departing the palace, the Japanese couple is expected to visit Windsor Castle where flowers will be laid on the graves of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip.

On Friday, the emperor and empress are also scheduled to visit Oxford University where they both studied.

In a press conference held before the trip, the emperor recalled Queen Elizabeth’s “warm hospitality” while studying in Britain and the fact he was treated “like a part of the family.” The emperor and empress attended Queen Elizabeth’s funeral in September 2022.

After arriving in Britain, the emperor conducted a series of private engagements, including a visit to Japan House in London and the Thames Barrier, ahead of the official part of the trip.

Initial plans for a state visit in 2020 were canceled due to the coronavirus outbreak. In order to ensure the visit does not distract attention from Britain’s general election on July 4, the trip has been slightly adapted.

While normally the prime minister hosts state guests at No. 10 Downing Street, this part of the visit has been canceled due to election.

Catherine, Princess of Wales, who is undergoing treatment for cancer, is not expected to make an appearance during the state visit.