Kate-less Prince William kicks off Japan tour -- with tea

26th February 2015, Comments 0 comments

A beaming Prince William was greeted by hundreds of fans as he arrived for his first trip to Japan Thursday, before being whisked off for a nice cup of tea -- green tea, that is.

Even without his heavily pregnant wife, Kate, the second-in-line to the British throne is assured of a warm welcome all over Japan, where people adore the British Royal family.

A crowd of well-wishers and journalists greeted the prince, 32, at Tokyo's Haneda airport, where he appeared immaculately turned out in a tie, light blue shirt and dark blue suit, despite the lengthy flight from England.

Soon after his arrival a smiling William, accompanied by Tokyo Governor Yoichi Masuzoe, sheltered under see-through umbrellas as he boarded a boat to see areas of Tokyo Bay that will play host to some of the main events of the 2020 Olympics.

The grey, rain-soaked afternoon, which would not have been out of place in London, moved on to a formal tea ceremony in the Hama-rikyu Japanese garden, where lines of flag-waving schoolchildren greeted the prince.

The garden was once a hawk-hunting field used by the shogun -- the military ruler of feudal Japan -- but passed to the Japanese royal family shortly after the Meiji Restoration of 1868.

Its clever design uses the changing tide of Tokyo Bay to alter the appearance of the lakes and ponds throughout the day.

Away from the phalanx of Japanese cameras set to follow the prince throughout his four-day tour, William was expected to savour a cup of bitter "macha" green tea at a traditional teahouse in the garden.

- Ornate ceremony -

The tea ceremony is one of the many ornate and ancient arts that persist in modern-day Japan, involving complex rituals almost impossible for the outsider to understand.

In an apparent concession, however, the Duke of Cambridge was to be seated on a specially prepared chair instead of adopting the traditional kneeling posture that many Westerners find difficult.

On Friday he will meet fellow royals Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko at the Imperial Palace before a business conference intended to showcase British innovation.

The prince is set to head to Japan's tsunami-stricken northeast on Saturday, where he will visit a playground for children.

The tour will take him to Fukushima, the prefecture that plays host to the nuclear plant that was crippled in the 2011 tsunami.

Tens of thousands of people were forced from their homes when three of the plant's reactors went into meltdown, spewing toxic radiation over a large area.

Many of those made homeless by the disaster remain displaced, and scientists say it could be decades before some areas are safe for human habitation again.

William is due to leave Japan on Sunday, bound for Beijing.

The last time a major member of Britain's royal family visited Japan was in 2008 when the duke's father, Prince Charles, came with his wife Camilla.

When the late Princess Diana visited Japan for the first time in 1986, nearly 100,000 people flocked to a parade in Tokyo, as so-called "Diana Fever" swept the nation, with many Japanese women emulating her fashion.

Leading broadcasters aired decades-old footage of Diana, and took the opportunity to indulge viewers in film of William as a baby, which they set alongside that of his own baby son, George.


© 2015 AFP

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