Emperor eager to celebrate foundation's 50th anniversary


POSTED: Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko will begin their second day of a three-day visit today with a wreath-laying ceremony at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific.

They will then attend a state luncheon at Washington Place and a Waikiki banquet celebrating the golden anniversary of the scholarship foundation they established to promote understanding between the United States and Japan.

“;Hawaii has a special place in their hearts,”; said spokesman Sadaaki Numata, who traveled with the imperial couple for the last 12 days during their visit to Canada.

The imperial couple arrived at Hickam Air Force Base from Vancouver for their fifth island visit at 2:46 p.m. yesterday, just a few minutes ahead of schedule.

Boarding the 747 jet to greet the couple were Ichiro Fujisaki, Japanese ambassador to the United States; Paul Hegarty, deputy chief of protocol with the U.S. State Department; Toshio Kunikata, consul general of Japan in Hawaii; and Francis Lum, former chief protocol officer for the state.

The emperor, dressed in a gray suit, and the empress, wearing a magenta jacket, black skirt and a stylish hat, emerged from the jet shortly after 3 p.m. following yesterday's nearly 5 1/2 -hour flight.

They were greeted at the bottom of the stairs first by Gov. Linda Lingle, who presented the emperor with orange ohia alii and green maile lei. Next in line was Adm. Timothy Keating, head of the Pacific Command, who greeted the empress with a Christina orchid lei.

Lum, who had handled four earlier visits by the imperial couple while working for four Hawaii governors, introduced the couple to the 16-member greeting party, which included Senate President Colleen Hanabusa and her husband, John Souza; House Speaker Calvin Say; Honolulu Mayor Hannemann and his wife, Gail; Hawaii Chief Justice Ronald Moon; and Col. Giovanni Tuck, commander of Hickam's 15th Airlift Wing.

Numata, former Japanese ambassador to Canada, said the imperial couple's primary reason to visit Hawaii was to attend the 50th anniversary of the Crown Prince Akihito Scholarship Foundation today.

“;The emperor and empress feel very deeply attached to the scholarship,”; he said.

The scholarship was established to commemorate the 1959 wedding of the then-Crown Prince Akihito and Michiko Shoda, the first commoner to marry an heir to the Japanese throne.

Their visit to Hawaii will not include Pearl Harbor.

“;He feels strongly committed to peace. He feels such a mistake should never be repeated,”; said Numata.

Tomorrow the emperor and empress will fly to the Big Island to visit Parker Ranch in Waimea for a reception and to watch a paniolo performance.


Star-Bulletin reporter Rosemarie Bernardo contributed to this report.