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Evening Standard
Evening Standard
Jordan Reynolds and Miriam Burrell

Japanese Emperor and Empress hosted by King as three-day UK state visit begins

Japan’s Emperor Naruhito and his wife Empress Masako have been greeted by the King and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak as they arrived in the UK for a three-day state visit.

The red carpet was rolled out for the Japanese royals on Tuesday, with their visit including traditional pomp and pageantry of a ceremonial welcome on Horse Guards Parade, a carriage procession and a grand banquet at Buckingham Palace.

The King and Queen will host the Japanese royals from Tuesday to Thursday, ending a week before the July 4 election.

Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako arrive for a Ceremonial Welcome at Horse Guards Parade (AFP via Getty Images)

A Palace spokesman said this week’s programme had been “slightly adapted”, adding: “As a general principle, it has of course been adapted as a result of the current pre-election period of sensitivity.”

Anne will miss the state banquet on Tuesday after suffering minor injuries to her head and concussion when she was reportedly kicked by a horse on her Gatcombe Park estate.

Mr Sunak and Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer will take a break from the campaign trail to attend the state banquet at Buckingham Palace, just over a week before the General Election.

Rishi Sunak with Foreign Secretary David Cameron and Home Secretary James Cleverly (via REUTERS)

A Japanese Foreign Ministry official said the emperor and empress’s visit would not be a political one and it was hoped it would forge “friendly relations across generations” between Japan’s imperial family and the British royal family.

The dinner, in the ballroom of the Palace, will see Mr Sunak and Sir Keir dress in white tie, process in and take their seats around the horseshoe-shaped table to hear speeches and toasts by Charles and the emperor.

A prime minister usually sits near the head of the table, with the leader of the opposition positioned further down.

State visits are planned by the Foreign Office, in consultation with the Palace.

The Prince of Wales will also take part in the visit, greeting the emperor and empress at their hotel on behalf of the King on Tuesday, and accompanying them to Horse Guards Parade.

William, who is president of the Football Association, is expected to be at the state banquet but it clashes with England’s last group game in the Euro 2024 tournament.

Prince William greets Emperor Naruhito and his wife Empress Masako (Getty Images)

The King and Queen will formally welcome their guests, and Charles will inspect the Guard of Honour – formed of the 1st Battalion Welsh Guards with the Band of the Welsh Guards – with the emperor before a carriage procession back to the Palace with Camilla and William.

After lunch at the royal residence, the guests will tour a Royal Collection exhibition in the Picture Gallery and then lay a wreath at the Grave of the Unknown Warrior in Westminster Abbey.

In the evening, Emperor Naruhito, ruler of the Chrysanthemum throne, and Empress Masako will be feted with a lavish state banquet, where the King and the emperor will give speeches.

The Japanese visitors will spend seven days in the UK after arriving at Stansted Airport in Essex on Saturday to carry out private engagements before the official state visit.

On Thursday, they will bid farewell to the King and Queen and privately visit St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle to lay a wreath on the tomb of the late Queen, before having a private visit to Oxford on Friday.

The key event in the royal calendar is Charles’s first incoming state visit since his cancer diagnosis.

The Princess of Wales, who returned briefly to the spotlight at Trooping the Colour last weekend despite her ongoing cancer treatment, is not expected to take part in the visit.

The Japanese state visit previously had to be postponed because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

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