Japan royalty arrive in Hawaii

By Zahid Arab - bio | email

HONOLULU (KHNL) - Japan's royalty makes its first visit to Honolulu in 15 years. Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko arrived in the islands Monday afternoon at Hickam Air Force Base.

They were met by Governor Linda Lingle, Commander of the U.S. Pacific Command Admiral Timothy Keating and other state lawmakers. Their majesties entourage then made its way to Kapiolani Park. They were greeted by dignitaries, a group of school children and hundreds of admiring fans.

Day one of the royal couple's three-day Hawaii visit was brief, but highly anticipated.

The emperor and empress hold no power, but still for the Japanese, they are the country's cultural icons. Although many locals will never come in contact with the royal couple this week, they still feel a deep connection to them.

Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko arrived with their royal entourage. But local Japanese Kuulei said she got to park on the bus.

Their majesties will enjoy lavish meals, royal refreshments. But for Kuulei.

"I had a nice juice drink," said Honolulu Resident Kuulei.

The royal couple and the public take different paths to this same destination. Aside from the Japanese media, hundreds assemble at the park for individual reasons.

"They are a symbol of Japan," said Honolulu Resident Kazuko Watson.

"A lot of people from Japan don't have an opportunity like this to see them," said Honolulu Resident Edward Robinson.

"Just to catch a glimpse I'd be good," said Honolulu Resident Leland Kwock.

The emperor and empress arrive at Kapiolani Park with local Japanese in awe. They shake hands and revisit a tree the couple planted nearly 50 years ago. Back then he was a prince and she was a commoner.

"Handsome couple, very much in love," said Kuulei

"Empress Michiko is a good mother and good wife," said Watson.

As the royal couple approached the tree, locals admired from afar.

"I enjoyed seeing her, waving and saying konichiwa," said Honolulu Resident Jeff Hill.

In a matter of 25 minutes, their majesties get back into their motorcade. It's a short but special stop.

"This is probably going to be his last time coming to Hawaii. I just wanted to be part of it," said Honolulu Resident Evan Sanchez.

"It makes me feel proud to be japanese," said Honolulu Resident Kumiko Sakamoto-Kwock.

While many might not ever share a common smile, nod or simple salutation with the cultural icons, they still share a common bond. They're united as countrymen and supporters of Japanese culture.

Their majesties will attend a banquet at the Hilton Hawaiian Village Resort Wednesday, July 15th. It celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Crown Prince Akihito Scholarship. Nearly 1,500 people are expected to attend.