Emperor Akihito’s international diplomacy will come full circle with his arrival in Britain on May 16 to attend Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations.
The emperor, who will be accompanied by Empress Michiko to a May 18 luncheon at Windsor Castle to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the accession of the British monarch to the throne, first visited Britain in 1953 as a representative of his father at Queen Elizabeth’s coronation.
It was the main objective of his first overseas trip, which took him to 14 nations in six months. Akihito, who is still undergoing rehabilitation after heart bypass surgery three months ago, has since visited 56 countries.
The May 18 luncheon will be attended by the heads of state and members of royal families of about 30 nations from Europe, Asia and the Middle East.
Akihito, 78, will be one of only two participants who also attended Queen Elizabeth's coronation, along with King Albert II of Belgium.
Queen Elizabeth ascended to the throne in 1952, aged 25, the same year that Akihito, then 18, attended a formal ceremony designating him as Japan’s crown prince.
He got an ambivalent reception from the British public the next year. Plans for a visit to Newcastle had to be abandoned after the city’s council could not agree on whether to receive Akihito just eight years after the two nations had been at war.
Then Prime Minister Winston Churchill invited senior executives of British newspapers that were critical of Japan to a luncheon welcoming Akihito in May 1953. According to Masaru Hatano, a researcher of Japanese diplomatic history, Churchill gave a speech in which he predicted that the crown prince would come to hold friendly feelings toward Britain.
After the coronation in June, Queen Elizabeth and Akihito attended The Derby at Epsom Downs racecourse together and a photo of the two appeared in British newspapers.
The passage of time has not eliminated anti-Japanese sentiment in Britain, with the treatment of British prisoners of war by the Imperial Japanese Army continuing to be a point of contention.
Akihito visited Britain for the first time after becoming emperor in May 1998.
At a state dinner hosted by Queen Elizabeth, he gave a speech in which he tried to address the bitter feelings left by World War II.
"I experience a deep pain in my heart when I think about the scars of war suffered by many people," he said.
During this year’s visit, the emperor and empress have expressed a desire to show their appreciation for British support for Japan after last year's Great East Japan Earthquake, which included the dispatch of an expert British rescue team.
- « Prev
- Next »