Japan’s Emperor Akihito, Empress Michiko arrive in Hawaii for brief visit


Japan’s Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko will touch down in Honolulu today for a three-day Hawaii visit—their first trip to the Islands in 15 years.

The imperial couple will spend Tuesday and Wednesday on Oahu and Thursday on the Big Island of Hawaii. Their arrival today follows an 11-day goodwill visit to Canada.

The official Hawaii schedule for Emperor Akihito, 75, and Empress Michiko, 74, is a bit lighter than their Canadian one—a whirlwind week during which the royal couple had a small handful of official functions every day.

After arriving at Hickam Air Force Base on Oahu on Tuesday afternoon, the imperial couple is scheduled to briefly visit the site in Waikiki’s Kapiolani Park where they planted a shower tree on a 1960 visit. The park visit is the imperial couple’s only scheduled public appearance in Hawaii. Their motorcade is expected to arrive between 3:30 and 3:45 p.m.

On Wednesday, the Emperor and Empress will attend a private wreath-laying ceremony at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Punchbowl Crater. (The cemetery will be closed to the public from 8 a.m. to at least noon for the visit.) Lunch will follow with Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle at Washington Place—the historic house museum that was the state’s official governor’s residence until 2002.

In the evening, the imperial couple will attend a banquet celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Crown Prince Akihito Scholarship Program, at the Hilton Hawaiian Village in Waikiki. The annual scholarship—established when Akihito was still crown prince—offers students from Japan an opportunity to study at the University of Hawaii, and UH students the opportunity to study in Japan. The evening will also celebrate the imperial couple’s 50th wedding anniversary.

The Emperor and Empress will spend both nights on Oahu at the Kahala Hotel & Resort.

The royal couple have only two stops on their six-hour Big Island schedule on Thursday—a morning greeting from a gathering of Japanese-American Big Island residents at the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel, and a lunch reception co-hosted by the Ambassador of Japan and the Consul General of Japan, at Parker Ranch in the ranching town of Waimea.

Before both stops, the couple will be welcomed at Kona International Airport on Thursday morning to performances by hula halau (hula troupes) and a chant composed in honor of their visit by Kekuhi Kealiikanakaolehaililani, granddaughter of renowned kumu hula (hula teacher) Edith Kanakaole. They will depart Kona for Japan on Thursday afternoon.

For security reasons, no times were provided for the imperial couple’s Hawaii schedule. Oahu residents and visitors should anticipate traffic delays and road closures as the couple’s motorcade makes its way around Honolulu on Tuesday and Wednesday.

The 125th Emperor of Japan, Akihito ascended Japan’s Chrysanthemum Throne in 1989 following the death of Emperor Hirohito (known posthumously in Japan as Emperor Showa), who had reigned since 1926.

Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko last visited the Islands in 1994.

Categories: Culture