Japan-U.K. Relations Focus of Emperor’s Speech at State Banquet; King Charles Welcomes Imperial Couple Back to U.K.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
The Emperor and Empress, center, pose for a photo with King Charles III, right, and Queen Camilla in London on Tuesday.

LONDON — The Emperor emphasized the significance of the friendship between Japan and the United Kingdom at Tuesday’s state banquet held at Buckingham Palace in London as part of the Imperial couple’s official visit.

Referring to the history of conflict between the two nations during World War II, the Emperor said, “There was previously the sad period during which the friendly relationship between our two countries suffered.”

Speaking at the banquet hosted by King Charles III and Queen Camilla before about 170 attendees – including Prince William, Prince Edward, other royal family members and guests – the Emperor said the bilateral relationship is developing strongly and likened the relations to his hobby of mountain climbing.

“We can say that we are fortunate to have been given the opportunity to climb even higher on this grand, broad-based mountain, guided by the path trodden by our forebears, with a feeling of gratitude, respect and pride in our hearts,” the Emperor said.

In response, the king said, “At the core of our partnership is a close friendship; one based on a mutual understanding of the importance of international rules and global institutions, forged from the lessons of history, including its darkest years. Today, as we face a world in which these principles are ever more challenged, our shared values of freedom, democracy and the rule of law are more important than ever.”

‘Eikoku ni Okaerinasai’

Pool via AP
The Emperor, left, and the U.K.’s King Charles III toast glasses at the state banquet in London on Tuesday.

The banquet proceeded with a friendly atmosphere, with the sound of strings and harps in the background. The banquet room was filled with smiles when the king said in Japanese “Eikoku ni okaeri nasai” (Welcome back to Britain) to the Emperor and Empress who had studied in the country.

The Emperor wore the Order of the Garter, the most senior order of chivalry in the United Kingdom, which had just been presented to him by Charles, on his tailcoat, and the Empress was dressed in a white robe decollete with a tiara

Banquet tables were decorated with roses from the palace and the gardens of Windsor Castle and maple tree saplings, among other items.

In his welcoming speech, the king emphasized that it was the enduring bond between the people of Japan and the United Kingdom that supported the cooperative relationship between the two countries. Charles then said “Kanpai” (Cheers) and clinked glasses with the Emperor.

While delivering his speech, the king spoke as if talking directly to the Emperor who sat next to him. The Emperor looked at his face as he listened to the speech, nodding occasionally. The king drew warm laughter from the audience by mentioning popular Japanese culture such as Hello Kitty and Pokemon in his speech.

In his own speech, the Emperor introduced the greetings of Emperor Showa and the Emperor Emeritus when they had visited the United Kingdom at the invitation of the late Queen Elizabeth II.

“At the State Banquet in 1971, my grandfather voiced his heartfelt wish for the people of both Japan and the United Kingdom in various walks of life to interact ever more closely and frequently and to talk to each other with open hearts. It was also my father’s sincere hope that our two peoples would continue to strive for true mutual understanding and to join hands in the cause of world peace and prosperity, as was expressed on the occasion of the subsequent State Banquet in 1998,” the Emperor said.

While expressing his respect to people who have made efforts to improve bilateral relations and foster friendship after World War II, the Emperor said, “It would be a source of immense satisfaction if our visit to the United Kingdom could help to firmly pass on the friendship and goodwill between our two countries to the young people and children who in the future will take on the reins of our relationship and develop it even further.”