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Emperor, Empress Visit Tennis Court They 1st Met 61 Years Ago

August 26, 2018

Karuizawa, Nagano Pref.- Japanese Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko on Saturday visited a tennis court in the central Japan resort town of Karuizawa, where they first met 61 years ago.

This is expected to become the Imperial couple's last visit to the memorable place in Nagano Prefecture before the Emperor's abdication, scheduled for late April next year.

While refraining from playing tennis, the couple held conversations with players on the court.

Sitting on a bench, the Emperor said, "Nice shot," giving applause to the players.

After staying for 30 minutes, the Emperor and the Empress left the court while waving their hands to people there.

In August 1957, then Crown Prince Akihito and then commoner Michiko Shoda played against each other in a doubles match on the court. The encounter led to their marriage in April 1959.

After their marriage, they visited the tennis court many times during their summer retreat. In August 2013, they played tennis.

Seiro Moroto, 69, a member of the Karuizawa-kai tennis club, who escorted the couple on Saturday, quoted the Emperor and the Empress as saying, "We are glad to be able to visit the tennis court."

"The conversations made me feel that the tennis court is a nostalgic place for them," Moroto said. Jiji Press