Japan’s Emperor, Empress Take Impromptu Golf Cart Ride with Indonesian President

Pool photo / The Yomiuri Shimbun
The Emperor and Empress head to a botanical garden in a cart driven by Indonesian President Joko Widodo

JAKARTA — Indonesian President Joko Widodo treated the visiting Emperor and Empress to an unscheduled ride on a golf cart on Monday, driving them to a botanical garden close to the Bogor Palace in West Java near Jakarta.

This apparently impromptu gesture of hospitality highlighted the close relationship between the two countries.

The Emperor expressed his gratitude to the president, saying, “It was very interesting to ride in a cart like that for the first time,” according to the Imperial Household Agency. The Indonesian president reportedly said he’d never been so nervous, even though he had driven the cart for several distinguished guests in the past.

The cart ride and stroll through the botanical garden were not part of the original schedule for Monday. They were conducted at the suggestion of the president, who “likes to arrange surprise events and gifts,” according to a senior agency official.

The Emperor aftterward held talks with the president at the Bogor Palace, expressing his appreciation for the president’s attendance at expanded sessions of the Group of Seven summit in Hiroshima in May and his visit to Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum.

The president told the Emperor that Hiroshima and Nagasaki are symbols of peace, and that he hopes a nuclear-free world will be realized. He also said Indonesia is making various efforts to realize peace in Ukraine, and the Emperor expressed his respect for those efforts.

The Empress met with the president’s wife, Iriana, and watched a performance of sape, a traditional Indonesian stringed instrument. The Empress also tried making batik, a traditional type of textile dyeing, and smiled as she put a batik cloth around her shoulders.