We recently witnessed a landmark event in the history of Japan-United Kingdom relations with the Duke of Cambridge’s first visit to my country. His Royal Highness, already very popular among the general public, was warmly welcomed everywhere he went. On this occasion, I returned to Japan to attend him as a representative of the Japanese Government.
Even before his arrival on 26 February the Duke’s visit had received a great deal of attention in the Japanese media. On reaching Haneda, His Royal Highness was greeted by British Ambassador Tim Hitchens and me. He immediately proceeded to his first event in Japan. At the nearby Haneda dock, he met the Governor of Tokyo, Dr Yoichi Masuzoe, with whom he took a boat trip to see the venue of the 2020 Olympics before arriving at Hama Rikyu Gardens to attend a tea ceremony hosted by Genshitsu Sen, 15th Grand Master of the Urasenke School of Tea. The following day the Duke visited the Commonwealth War Cemetery Yokohama in the morning to commemorate the Commonwealth war dead, followed by a luncheon at the Imperial Palace, hosted by their Majesties the Emperor and Empress of Japan. In the afternoon, the Duke had an audience with His Imperial Highness the Crown Prince of Japan at the Togu Palace. Crown Princess Masako joined them as both the Prince and Princess have strong ties with the United Kingdom, having studied at Oxford. The Duke also attended a conference held in the Tokyo district of Roppongi, Innovation is GREAT, an event designed to showcase new British technology worldwide.
Continuing his hectic schedule, on 28 February His Royal Highness visited the studios at NHK, the Japanese equivalent of the BBC, where he entered the set of a popular historical drama and was briefed about the system for emergency warnings of major natural disasters through national broadcasts. In the afternoon the Duke travelled to the Tohoku region, much of which had been devastated by the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami in March 2011. His first destination was Fukushima. Together with Prime Minister Abe he spent some time at a playground specially set up for the affected children and mingled with them. He even showed off his ball-juggling skills! Staying overnight at a famous hotspring in Fukushima, the Duke attended a dinner featuring local delicacies, hosted by the Prime Minister. Mr Abe expressed his gratitude for His Royal Highness’s visit to the region, which clearly had a very positive impact in cheering up the victims as well as in reminding people of the region’s attractions as a tourist destination and in restoring the reputation of the local food products, which had been damaged by groundless fears of radioactivity.
On 1 March, the Duke travelled to Ishinomaki and Onagawa in Miyagi Prefecture, where he was greeted by local residents, including survivors of the disaster. His meetings with some of the survivors who had lost loved ones and endured considerable hardship in the aftermath of the disaster were quite emotional, his friendly and generous attitude was highly appreciated. The Duke’s visit to Japan was a great success, due in no small measure to the friendly and sincere way in which he interacted with the people he met. It powerfully manifested how positive messages a Royal visit could create and send out. At the end of the tour he asked me to convey how much he appreciated the warm welcome he had received from the people of Japan. It was actually me and the people of Japan who are grateful to him for visiting and cheering Japan, which will certainly helping ensure that Japan-UK ties continue to flourish in the years ahead.