Emperor and Empress of Japan make royal visit to Hawaii

Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko of Japan
Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko of Japan
Harriet Lum
Harriet Lum
Curtis Matsushige
Curtis Matsushige

By Mari-Ela David - bio | email

HONOLULU (KHNL) - Their Majesties, the Emperor and Empress of Japan, are now in Honolulu.

Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko arrived in the islands around 3:15 Tuesday afternoon at Hickam Air Force Base.

It's the royal couple's first visit to Honolulu in 15 years.

The Emperor and Empress were met by Governor Linda Lingle and Admiral Timothy Keating, Commander of the U.S. Pacific Command.

Also in the welcoming party was State Senator Colleen Hanabusa, Representative Calvin Say and Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann.

The Emperor and Empress then headed to Kapiolani Park. They arrived around 3:40 and stayed for about 40 minutes, shaking hands with dignitaries.

The reason they made a stop at Kapiolani Park is to re-visit a rainbow shower tree that's been growing here for nearly 50 years.

Their majesties planted it back in september 23, 1960, to mark the 100th anniversary of the relationship between the United States and Japan.

The tree is a symbol of friendship, and Their Majesties visit back to it is a symbolic gesture of hope that America and Japan's relationship will continue to grow and flourish.

People lined up as early as 7:30 a.m. at Kapiolani Park, hoping to get a glimpse of the Emperor and Empress as they re-visited the tree.

"I just went to Japan a year ago and of course we could only stay outside of the castle but that was a thrill for me. Now I am here because I thought this is the only opportunity, the last time because I don't think he will come again," said Harriet Lum, a Pearl City resident.

"Its important because he's kind of the people's Emperor. He married a commoner and he really cares for the elderly. And he's kind of nodding towards Hawaii to maintain the relationship," said Curtis Matsushige, a Mililani resident.

Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko, we be in the islands until Thursday. On Wednesday, their itinerary includes laying a wreath at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl.

The 75-year-old Emperor and his 74-year-old wife will also have lunch at Washington Place with Governor Lingle.

In the evening, the Emperor and Empress will attend a banquet to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Crown Prince Akihito Scholarship Foundation at the Hilton Hawaiian Village.