In May a very special event took place in the form of an official visit to the United Kingdom by Their Majesties the Emperor and Empress of Japan. The visit had particular significance for His Majesty as he had attended the Coronation of Her Majesty The Queen in June 1953 when the then-Crown Prince was still a teenager. It was his first ever overseas visit, and he enjoyed it very much. The main purpose of the trip on this occasion was for Their Majesties to attend a luncheon with other monarchs from around the world to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of Her Majesty The Queen. In addition, they were keen for an opportunity to convey their personal gratitude to the Government and people of the United Kingdom for the generous and sincere support and assistance so swiftly extended to Japan following the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami last year.
Their Majesties arrived at London’s Heathrow Airport on the afternoon of Wednesday 16 May. The following morning they visited Holland Park, famous for its beautiful Kyoto Garden, where they received a warm welcome from a substantial number of well-wishers. That evening a reception was held at the Embassy of Japan to receive in audience those British people who had played a prominent role in activities to help the victims of last year’s disaster, including the leader of the British search-and-rescue mission. His Majesty gave a speech to express his gratitude in English, after which Their Majesties conversed with a number of the guests individually.
On Friday 18 May Their Majesties visited Windsor Castle for the luncheon hosted by Her Majesty The Queen and His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh. The gathering was attended by almost 100 guests, consisting mainly of sovereigns and their spouses. Their Majesties took the opportunity to renew their long-standing friendship with many other participants and also conveyed their gratitude for the aid that their respective countries had extended to Japan. In the evening it was the turn of His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales to host a dinner for some of the visiting monarchs, which Their Majesties also attended.
On the morning of Saturday 19 May, the final day of their visit, Their Majesties met some members of the Japanese community in the UK at my official residence. At the beginning of the event, His Majesty gave a speech to show his appreciation for the long-standing efforts of the Japanese residents to promote friendship between the UK and Japan. Their Majesties enjoyed conversing with a wide range of people and hearing about their experiences. They left that afternoon for Japan and returned safely to Tokyo the following day.
A visit by Their Majesties does not happen very frequently for an ambassador. For some ambassadors it is something they never experience at all during their assignment. For this reason it was a great honour and privilege for me and for my colleagues at the Embassy to receive and accompany them during their visit.