Emperor and Empress of Japan arrive in the UK ahead of a long-awaited state visit

LONDON (AP) — Emperor Naruhito of Japan and his wife Empress Masako arrived in the U.K. on Saturday ahead of a long-awaited official state visit originally scheduled for 2020 before the coronavirus pandemic delayed those plans.

The smiling couple, who landed late afternoon at Stansted Airport north of London, will spend seven days in the U.K. carrying out private engagements before the official state visit begins on June 25. The couple have connections to the U.K., having studied at the University of Oxford at different times.

The trip was intended to be the 64-year-old emperor’s first overseas visit after he ascended the Chrysanthemum Throne in 2019. But it was delayed by COVID-19. He later attended Queen Elizabeth II ’s funeral in September 2022.

The state visit begins Tuesday, when King Charles III and Queen Camilla will formally welcome the emperor and empress before they take a ceremonial carriage ride to Buckingham Palace. Naruhito will also lay a wreath at the tomb of the unknown soldier in Westminster Abbey then return to the palace for a state banquet.

Conservative Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Labour Party leader Keir Starmer, who are in the midst of a general election campaign before the vote on July 4, are both set to attend the state banquet at Buckingham Palace on Tuesday evening.