6:00 p.m. JST, September 11, 2022
Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II, who died Thursday at 96, had forged close friendships with members of the Japanese imperial family over the years. His friendship with the Emperor Emeritus, 88, notably lasted nearly 70 years, during which they both dealt with the scars that the British and Japanese bore from the Second World War. The strong bond between the two monarchs provided a necessary impetus for the peoples of the two countries to become true friends.
According to the Imperial Household Agency, the Emperor Emeritus and Empress Emeritus were deeply saddened by the news of the Queen’s death. They expressed their gratitude for his friendship over the years and prayed for the repose of his soul.
In 1953, the Emperor Emeritus attended the Queen’s coronation ceremony. The then Crown Prince, 19, spoke without an interpreter to the Queen, 27, about the events of his trip.
In 1998, the Emperor Emeritus made his first visit to Britain after his accession to the throne. In Britain at this time, many people still harbored bitter feelings against Japan for its role in World War II. A group of Britons taken prisoner during the war by the now disbanded Imperial Japanese Army protested the then Emperor of Japan and turned their backs on him as he rode by horse-drawn carriage during a London welcome parade.
At the dinner banquet held at Buckingham Palace that evening, the Emperor Emeritus said: “At the thought of the scars of war that people bear, our hearts are filled with deep sorrow and pain.”
Queen Elizabeth II and the Emperor Emeritus talk at a banquet in London during the then Emperor’s visit to Britain in May 1998.
In response, referring to the long history of bilateral relations, Queen Elizabeth said Britain was not a fair weather friend, but a true friend of Japan.
His warm welcome from the imperial couple was widely reported in Britain.
“I felt the bitter feelings in Britain against Japan were gradually diminishing as the Emperor Emeritus tried to interact with the British people,” said Masahiro Sato, 81, who accompanied the Emperor Emeritus on the trip as Chamberlain. “I believe the close and long-standing relationship between the Emperor Emeritus and the Queen has made this possible.”
In 2012, the Emperor Emeritus traveled to Britain to attend an event commemorating the 60th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth’s accession to the throne. He had just had heart surgery three months earlier and was not in perfect health, but he was determined to make the trip.
The current Emperor, 62, had also had a close relationship with the Queen since visiting Japan in 1975. He studied in Britain from 1983 to 1985. She gave him a warm welcome whenever he was visiting the country, and in a statement issued on Friday, the Emperor expressed his deep appreciation for his kindness and hospitality on these occasions.
The Emperor had planned to visit Britain on his first overseas trip since assuming the throne, but the trip was postponed due to the novel coronavirus pandemic. In his statement, he also expressed his sincere gratitude for the Queen’s invitation to visit his country.