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Japan's emperor says he looks forward to deepening ties with Britain's royals during UK visit

TOKYO (AP) — Japan's Emperor Naruhito said Wednesday he is “delighted” to finally be able to visit Britain after the trip was delayed by several years due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Japan's Emperor Naruhito speaks during a press conference at the Imperial Palace in advance of his visit to Britain, Wednesday, June 19, 2024, in Tokyo. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko, Pool)

TOKYO (AP) — Japan's Emperor Naruhito said Wednesday he is “delighted” to finally be able to visit Britain after the trip was delayed by several years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He said he looks forward to rekindling his friendship with the British royal family and exploring Oxford, where he studied about 40 years ago.

Naruhito and his wife, Empress Masako, will make a weeklong visit to Britain starting Saturday. The trip was originally planned for 2020 at the invitation of the late Queen Elizabeth II as the first of his overseas visits after his ascension to the Chrysanthemum Throne in 2019.

“I'm truly delighted to be able to make a visit to Britain this time,” Naruhito told reporters ahead of the June 22-29 trip. The emperor said he regretted that they could not make the trip while Queen Elizabeth was alive.

“Through our upcoming visit, I would like to reflect on the long history of exchanges fostered between Japan and Britain,” Naruhito said. He hoped to nurture the friendship with King Charles III and Queen Camilla and other members of Britain's royal family, and boost relations between the two sides through meetings and exchanges.

Naruhito thanked King Charles III for accommodating the visit while he recovers from cancer treatment. He wished both Charles and Catherine, the Princess of Wales, who is also undergoing cancer treatment, a speedy recovery.

Japan’s imperial family has had close relations with Britain’s royal family for three generations starting from his grandfather, late Emperor Hirohito.

Naruhito acknowledged that there had been difficult times when Japan and Britain fought on opposing sides during World War II, but he said Japan has since focused on peace and prosperity on the global stage. Japan and Britain have developed strong ties in areas from the economy to science and technology and culture, he said.

The trip includes a visit to Oxford University, where both he and Masako studied separately before their marriage. Naruhito said he looks forward to returning to Oxford and exploring the city with his wife together for the first time.

Naruhito researched the 18th-century Thames River transport system while at Merton College from 1983 to 1985.

The emperor recalled the late queen serving him tea at Buckingham Palace when he visited London in 1983. He also fondly remembered being invited to a barbecue with the queen and other royals, and going fly fishing in Scotland with then-Prince Charles.

During his upcoming trip, Naruhito will visit the Thames Barrier, pay respects to the grave of the Unknown Warrior in Westminster Abby, lay flowers at the tombs of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip at the King George VI Chapel in Windsor, and visit the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew, among other activities.

The couple has a relatively relaxed schedule in part due to considerations for Masako, who is still recovering from the stress-induced conditions she developed soon after she giving birth to the couple’s only child, Princess Aiko and amid pressure to have a son to continue Japan’s male-only imperial succession.

Mari Yamaguchi, The Associated Press

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