Akihito to visit isles but not Pearl Harbor


POSTED: Saturday, July 04, 2009

TOKYO » Japan's Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko hope to reach out to Americans and Canadians of Japanese ancestry during a two-week tour that began yesterday, but they will not be going to Pearl Harbor.

“;Both Canada and the state of Hawaii are home to many people of Japanese ancestry,”; Akihito said in a statement ahead of the trip. “;We are looking forward to meeting these people in various places during our trip and further deepen our understanding of the paths they have taken to this day.”;

There had been speculation in the Japanese media that they might go to Pearl Harbor, which would have been the first visit by an emperor to the scene of Japan's 1941 surprise attack. But palace officials said the purpose of their visit was not related to the attack. Akihito paid his respects at Pearl Harbor in 1960 as crown prince.

Canada's foreign affairs minister greeted the royal couple yesterday when they arrived in Ottawa for their first visit to Canada together. The royal couple will spend 11 days in Canada and will also stop in Toronto, Victoria and Vancouver before traveling to Hawaii.

During their July 14-16 Hawaii visit, they will lay a wreath at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl, the burial place for 34,000 veterans of World War I, World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War.

The 75-year-old Akihito and his 74-year-old wife will also attend a banquet marking the 50th anniversary of a scholarship set up in his honor, the Crown Prince Akihito Scholarship Foundation, according to the Japanese government. The foundation, established as a wedding gift to the couple by residents of Hawaii in 1959, exchanges two students between Hawaii and Japan every year.

The couple are expected to meet with Gov. Linda Lingle and attend a reception co-hosted by the Japanese ambassador and the consul general.

But palace doctors have warned their health is “;not in top form,”; and that could mean last-minute itinerary changes.

Akihito has osteoporosis and is still recovering from stress-linked irregular pulse. He has also undergone surgery and treatment for cancer. Michiko injured her knee during a tennis game in February and has had stress-related illnesses over the years, including a nervous breakdown that left her unable to speak in the early 1990s.

The current visit celebrates several significant anniversaries in 2009, including the 80th anniversary of Japanese-Canadian diplomatic relations, Akihito's 20th year as emperor and the royal couple's 50th wedding anniversary.