Berliner Tageblatt - UK rolls out lavish welcome for Japanese royals as state visit begins

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UK rolls out lavish welcome for Japanese royals as state visit begins
UK rolls out lavish welcome for Japanese royals as state visit begins / Photo: © AFP

UK rolls out lavish welcome for Japanese royals as state visit begins

A guard of honour and a lavish banquet awaited Japan's Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako in London on Tuesday as King Charles III was set to receive them at the start of a three-day state visit to Britain.

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The couple, who arrived on Saturday and held informal engagements over the weekend, were to be met by the British monarch and Queen Camilla on Horse Guards Parade in central London at around noon.

The three days of pomp and pageantry will begin with royal salutes, the firing of guns and the playing of the two countries' national anthems, while Naruhito, 64, and Charles, 75, will inspect the guard of honour.

The royals will then travel the short distance to Buckingham Palace in a carriage procession.

The king, hosting his first state visit since it was revealed in February that he has cancer, will later take the emperor and empress to a special exhibition of items from the Royal Collection relating to Japan.

They then head to Westminster Abbey to lay a wreath at the Grave of the Unknown Warrior.

The state banquet at Buckingham Palace -- the showpiece of a state visit to the UK -- will take place in the evening.

- Banquet -

This state visit comes just over a week before the UK's general election, with some typical political elements, such as a Downing Street visit, scrapped in line with neutrality rules.

But Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Labour Party leader Keir Starmer, who is widely expected to win the July 4 poll, will join Charles, Camilla and the Japanese royals at the banquet.

All eyes are on a possible appearance by heir to the throne Prince William's wife Catherine, who was last seen at an official engagement in December, due to her own cancer treatment.

Charles has made a limited return to public duties in recent months after doctors said they were "very encouraged" by his progress.

Princess Anne, the king's sister, had been due to attend but will now not be there as she recovers in hospital with concussion and minor injuries after apparently being injured by a horse.

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.

It was originally due to take place in 2020 and would have been the emperor's first overseas visit since he ascended to the Chrysanthemum Throne but it was delayed by the pandemic.

For Charles, it will be the third state visit he has hosted since he became king following the death of his mother Queen Elizabeth II in September 2022.

Naruhito will visit The Francis Crick Institute, the UK's flagship biomedical research centre, on Wednesday before the Lord Mayor and City of London Corporation host a banquet for him in the evening.

- 'Fond memories' -

The emperor and empress will formally bid farewell to the king and queen at Buckingham Palace on Thursday morning before attending the "Japan: Myths to Manga" exhibition at London's V&A museum.

The emperor will later privately visit Windsor Castle to lay a wreath on the tomb of the late queen, whose funeral he attended nearly two years ago.

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 Japanese couple head to Oxford, west of London on Friday, and will fly home from near there.