Queen developed warm ties with Japan, Imperial family

Right above: AP file photo; Others: Yomiuri Shimbun file photos
Clockwise from left: Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip attend a welcoming ceremony held by Emperor Showa and Empress Kojun during her visit to Japan on May 7, 1975; Queen Elizabeth II greets the then Emperor and Empress at Buckingham Palace in London on May 29, 2007; The then Crown Prince, who is now the Emperor, receives an explanation about items related to Japan from Queen Elizabeth II in the library at Windsor Castle, which houses the royal family’s collection, in the suburbs of London on May 19, 2001.

Queen Elizabeth II, Britain’s longest-serving monarch, not only met with three generations of current or future emperors during her 70-year reign, but also interacted with the Japanese public during a visit for which she was remembered for her warmth and caring smile.

“I met the queen only for a short time, but I was impressed by her doing her duties on a very tight schedule,” said Motoko Aizawa, 63, who is currently living in Washington. “She was a great person who dedicated her life to serving people.,”

The queen, who died Thursday at the age of 96, arrived for her first official visit as head of state to Japan on May 7, 1975, and stayed for six days. Aizawa met the queen when the monarch observed traditional Japanese sports at a gym in Tokyo, where she explained the finer points of the martial arts including naginata, which uses a long-handled sword.

Aizawa was a first-year high school student at that time and was chosen because she had won a national English speech contest for junior high school students the previous year. When she completed her assignment and said farewell to the queen, the queen smiled and complimented her, Aizawa recalled.

“Having contact with the queen made me feel confident about my English,” said Aizawa, who went on to pass the bar exam in Britain and now works as a human rights activist in Washington. “It was a great honor to meet her and she had a major impact on my life.”

At the British Embassy in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo, flags flew at half-mast. A 55 year-old woman from Nagoya visiting the Embassy with flowers said in tears, “She was always there for people and a lovely lady who always had a sense of humor. I really wanted her to recover.”

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
Queen Elizabeth II, with her husband Prince Philip, waves to the crowd in Tokyo on May 9, 1975, during her visit to Japan.

The official visit of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip to Japan in 1975 was a reciprocal visit for that of Emperor Showa to Britain in 1971. The Emperor Emeritus attended the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953, when he was Crown Prince.