New Japanese Emperor's First U.K. State Visit Announced Amid Royal Family Turmoil

Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako will stay at Windsor Castle, the palace said

Japan’s Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako have planned their first overseas trip since he acceded to the throne in May of last year: a visit to see the royal family in Britain.

On Tuesday, Buckingham Palace announced that the Emperor and Empress of Japan accepted an invitation from Queen Elizabeth II to see the United Kingdom.

It’s the first visit that’s been set since news broke of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry‘s shocking decision to step down from their senior roles.

The state visit will be planned for spring 2020. Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako will stay at Windsor Castle, the palace said. Further details about the Emperor and Empress’ state visit program will be announced at a later time.

Yoshihide Suga, Japan’s chief government spokesman, told reporters that the visit is being scheduled for between April and June, Reuters reported.

“The relationship between our country’s imperial family and Britain’s royal family has played an important role in fostering strong ties between both of our countries,” Suga said. “In line with this spirit, the emperor and the empress have received an invitation to visit.”

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Crown Prince Naruhito and Crown Princess Masako of Japan
The Asahi Shimbun/The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images

Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako — who rarely make overseas trips together, due to her recovery from a stress-induced illness — both studied at Oxford in the past, Naruhito researching the history of river transport and Masako studying international relations, Reuters reported.

The Queen has hosted two previous state visits from Japan.

Back in May 1998, the Queen hosted Naruhito’s father Emperor Emeritus Akihito and Empress Emerita Michiko in the U.K. Before that, in October 1971, Emperor Showa (Hirohito) and Empress Kojun (Nagako) were guests of the Queen.

Emperor Emeritus Akihito also stopped by to see the Queen at Buckingham Palace in May 2007, during a three-day visit with Empress Emerita Michiko to the U.K., and in May 2012, for a luncheon for Sovereign Monarchs at Windsor Castle to commemorate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.

The Queen and Prince Phillip have made just one state visit to Japan: in May 1975.

Crown Prince Naruhito and Crown Princess Masako of Japan
Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako. Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

Back in May, Emperor Naruhito ascended to the Chrysanthemum Throne following his father’s abdication. Emperor Emeritus Akihito had announced his plan to step down due to health reasons in December 2017, marking the country’s first abdication in 200 years.

In Japanese culture, Emperor Naruhito’s reign marks the start of a new historical period, the Reiwa (or “beautiful harmony”) era.

A formal accession ceremony took place in October, and was attended by world leaders and dignitaries representing over 170 nations, including Prince Charles.

Queen Elizabeth, Meghan, Harry
Queen Elizabeth, Meghan Markle and Prince Harry. Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty

Meanwhile, logistic discussions around Prince Harry and Meghan Markle‘s movement away from their senior royal roles are still ongoing.

On Monday, Harry, Charles and Prince William met with the Queen at her Sandringham home for preliminary discussions. Following the 90-minute summit, she released a personal statement on the matter.

“Today my family had very constructive discussions on the future of my grandson and his family,” the Queen said. “My family and I are entirely supportive of Harry and Meghan’s desire to create a new life as a young family. Although we would have preferred them to remain full-time working Members of the Royal Family, we respect and understand their wish to live a more independent life as a family while remaining a valued part of my family.

“Harry and Meghan have made clear that they do not want to be reliant on public funds in their new lives. It has therefore been agreed that there will be a period of transition in which the Sussexes will spend time in Canada and the U.K. These are complex matters for my family to resolve, and there is some more work to be done, but I have asked for final decisions to be reached in the coming days.”

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