Japan’s Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako attend the Japan Prize presentation ceremony in Tokyo on April 13. The imperial couple will travel to Britain to attend Queen Elizabeth II’s state funeral next week to pay respects to her, Japan’s top government spokesperson said Sept. 14. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko, Pool, File)

By MARI YAMAGUCHI, Associated Press

TOKYO — Japanese Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako will travel to Britain to attend Queen Elizabeth II ’s state funeral next week to pay respects to her, Japan’s top government spokesperson said Wednesday.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said the Japanese government requested they accept the British royals’ invitation to attend, considering the close relations between the two countries’ royal families.

Traditionally, a Japanese emperor stays away from funerals whether at home or abroad because of a cultural belief based in the Shinto religion that considers death impure. The decision for Naruhito to attend the queen’s funeral underscores the importance and the deep bond between the royal families.

Matsuno said Japan’s imperial family has had close relations with Britain’s royal family for three generations, including Naruhito’s grandfather, the late Emperor Hirohito.

Queen Elizabeth had invited Naruhito to visit Britain as a first destination of his foreign visits after ascending to the Chrysanthemum Throne in 2019, which had to be postponed due to the pandemic, Matsuno said.

There are no plans for Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and other government officials to attend the funeral, he said.

Naruhito on Friday expressed his “deep sorrow and heartfelt condolences” over the death of Queen Elizabeth in a statement released through the Imperial Household Agency.

In a statement, in Japanese, Naruhito praised Queen Elizabeth for guiding and encouraging the people of Britain and its Commonwealth nations and her endeavor for the world peace and stability.

Naruhito noted that the queen always warmly watched over relations between the two countries and paid attention to the ties between British and Japanese royal families. He said the queen treated him kindly and thoughtfully while he studied at Oxford in the 1980s and during his official visits to Britain. On one occasion while Naruhito was studying in London, he was invited to the Buckingham Palace, where the queen served him tea.

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