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Japanese royals arrive for three-day state visit to UK

By AFP

June 22, 2024 11:28 PM


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Japan's Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako arrived in Britain on Saturday for a three-day state visit hosted by King Charles III.

A special flight from Japan landed at London's Stansted airport. The royal couple are to spend Sunday and Monday at private engagements before the official programme begins on Tuesday.

The highlight will be a state banquet at Buckingham Palace, with all eyes on a possible appearance by heir to the throne Prince William's wife Catherine, rarely seen in recent months due to cancer treatment.

Naruhito, 64, will also go to Windsor Castle, west of London, to lay a wreath on the tomb of Queen Elizabeth II, whose state funeral he and the empress, 60, attended in September 2022.

With Britain in the midst of a general election campaign, it was not immediately clear if there would be a meeting with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.

Visiting heads of state typically hold talks with the premier and opposition leader, or address lawmakers in parliament. But parliament has been dissolved before the July 4 vote.

The trip will be the emperor's second official state visit since his accession to the throne in 2019, following a visit to Indonesia last year.

For Charles, 75, it will be the third state visit he has hosted since he became king following the death of his mother.

Like Catherine, he was diagnosed with cancer this year but has made a limited return to public duties. He was seen this week with his wife Queen Camilla at the Royal Ascot horse racing meeting.

Catherine, who is widely known as Kate, is currently undergoing chemotherapy.

She made a first tentative return to public life last week when she attended a military parade in London to mark Charles' official birthday.

Elizabeth, whose 70-year reign began in 1952, hosted two Japanese state visits during her reign: Emperor Hirohito in 1971 and his eldest son Emperor Akihito -- Naruhito's father -- in 1998.

Speaking ahead of the trip, Naruhito said Britain's royals treated him "like family" during his time studying in England in the 1980s.

Naruhito recalled that during his two years at Oxford University, he was invited to Balmoral Castle in Scotland for a few days.

"I have very fond memories of the queen driving a car and inviting me to a barbecue... and Prince Philip showing me around by driving a carriage himself," he told a rare press conference.

The state visit's programme will also include a Guard of Honour ceremony, a carriage procession at Buckingham Palace, visits to museums and to the Francis Crick Institute, a biomedical research centre in London.

Before leaving on Friday the Japanese emperor and empress will visit Oxford, where they both studied, for private engagements.

 


AFP


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