Japan's emperor, empress arrive in Canada



OTTAWA - Japan's Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko arrived in Canada on Friday for a 11-day goodwill visit, the first since the emperor ascended to the Chrysanthemum Throne in 1989.
The royal couple was welcomed by Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon and Cooperation Minister Bev Oda on their arrival in Ottawa.



Japan's emperor, empress arrive in Canada
They will then travel to Toronto, Victoria and Vancouver to celebrate 80 years since the establishment of Canada's first diplomatic mission in Japan, before flying to the US island state of Hawaii.
In a departure speech in Tokyo, the 75-year-old emperor recalled his previous visit to Canada in 1953 as a 19-year-old prince on his first overseas trip.
He crossed Canada by train on his way to Britain for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II as a representative of his father, the late emperor Hirohito.
"Fifty-six years have passed since then, and I am much delighted that I will be visiting there once again, this time with the empress," the emperor said.
On Saturday they will visit the popular MacKenzie King estate in the Gatineau park, which was once the home to Canada's longest serving prime minister. King served from 1921-1926, and then again from 1926-1930 and 1935-1948.
The grounds, on the outskirts of the captial, are a favorite spot for visitors.
And on Sunday they will attend a Canadian-Japanese reception, before meeting on Monday with the Governor General Michaelle Jean, and Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
In Hawaii, the couple will attend ceremonies to mark the 50th anniversary of a scholarship foundation established to commemorate the couple's wedding.
"I am looking forward to being reunited with people whom I once met when they were scholarship students," Akihito said.
In Honolulu the couple -- who have visited many World War II sites, from Hiroshima and Nagasaki to the US Pacific territory of Saipan -- are due to offer flowers at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific
The site, known as the Punchbowl, is where US war dead are interred, including those who died in Japan's surprise Pearl Harbor attack in 1941 that dragged the United States into World War II.
Both Canada and Hawaii have a big Japanese community. There are 100,000 Japanese residents or people of Japanese ancestry in Canada and 297,000 Japanese-Americans in Hawaii.
Akihito, who married millionaire flour miller's daughter Michiko Shoda in 1959, has visited more than 50 countries as crown prince or emperor.
Michiko, 74, has not visited Canada before. The couple previously visited Hawaii in 1994.
The trip is the couple's 15th overseas journey in their 20-year reign.
The visit has been arranged with caution over the health of the emperor, who underwent surgery to remove prostate cancer in 2003.
Akihito has been recovering from arrhythmia in recent months and Michiko has been nursing a knee injury from playing tennis in February.
The Imperial Household Agency said Monday the couple may have to modify their itinerary "depending on the condition of Their Majesties."
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Friday, July 3rd 2009
AFP
           


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