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Emperor, empress to attend Queen Elizabeth's funeral; Kishida will go to New York

Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako are scheduled to attend Queen Elizabeth II's state funeral in Britain next week, the Japanese government said Wednesday, in what will be the couple's first overseas trip since his ascension to the throne in 2019.
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and other government officials are not planning to attend the funeral slated for Monday, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said at a press conference.
Kishida is instead planning to leave for New York on Monday to attend the U.N. General Assembly, he told a meeting at the prime minister's office.
An emperor traditionally does not make appearances at funerals at home or abroad and the decision to attend reflects the deep bond between the royal and imperial families.
"During Queen Elizabeth's 70-year reign, the British royal family and the Japanese imperial family have maintained friendly relations for three generations," including the current emperor's grandfather and father, Matsuno, the top government spokesman, said.
Following the death of Britain's longest-reigning monarch at the age of 96 on Sept 8, the imperial couple, as well as former Emperor Akihito and former Empress Michiko, observed three days of mourning from the next day.
The attendance of the imperial couple was decided after the Japanese government confirmed the intention of the emperor following an invitation for two people extended by the British government, according to the Imperial Household Agency.
As crown prince, former Emperor Akihito attended Queen Elizabeth II's 1953 coronation in London on behalf of Emperor Hirohito, posthumously known as Emperor Showa, who visited Britain in 1971.
After the queen visited Japan in 1975, then Emperor Akihito made his first visit as a monarch to Britain in 1998. He also attended the queen's Diamond Jubilee celebrations in 2012 to commemorate her 60th year on the throne.
The British royal family invited Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako to visit Britain after he ascended to the throne in May 2019 upon his father's abdication, but the plan was canceled due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
The imperial couple are scheduled to leave Japan on Saturday and return home on Tuesday, Matsuno said.
On Friday, Emperor Naruhito praised the queen for her life of service, saying in a statement conveyed by the Imperial Household Agency, "I express my heartfelt sorrow and deep sadness."
"From my heart, I declare my gratitude and esteem for her many achievements and contributions," the emperor said in the message, in which he also recalled his warm meetings with the queen while studying at Oxford.


© KYODO
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