learn about the Queen’s troubled visit to the country

One of Queen Elisabeth’s most memorable visits to Japan took place in 1975, when the country was beginning to solidify its foundations after years of reconstruction due to losses during World War II.

It is also worth remembering that the United Kingdom and the Japanese were on opposite sides. So, above all, this trip had a symbolic weight for diplomacy that was enormous.

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Find out more here about this historic journey of Queen Elisabeth and her husband, Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh.

Queen Elisabeth in Japan

The royal couple’s historic trip to Japan began quietly on May 7. It was the Queen’s first visit to Japan, but Philip’s story was a little more complicated.

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During World War II, Philip served in the HMS Whelp and during August and September 1945 – according to royal biographer Gyles Brandreth, Philip and Elizabeth: Portrait of a Marriage – he was “looking forward to some action against the Japanese” before the atomic bombs fell on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Still, the HMS Whelp stayed long enough to witness the story.

“Being in Tokyo Bay,” Philip recalled many years later, “with the surrender ceremony taking place on the battleship that was 200 meters away, you could see what was happening through a pair of binoculars. It was a great relief.”

Even more thrilled was Philip helping to bring in prisoners of war who were, in Philip’s words, “thin…they sat in the mess hall. They were suddenly in an atmosphere they recognized… and so we gave them a cup of tea. It was an extraordinary situation… tears streaming down her face. They just had their tea. They really couldn’t speak.”

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This brief but powerful memory was something Philip was unwilling to share upon meeting Emperor Hirohito or any of his associates. The emphasis of his trip was on trade relations. So whenever someone came up to Philip during the visit and asked, “Is this your first visit to Japan?” Philip was terse: “Yes.”

Hirohito wouldn’t like this conversation either. The emperor’s responsibility for the war continued to be debated in the Japanese press, perpetuated by his own family.

These embarrassing moments often appeared in the media whenever the Emperor met with high-ranking officials from England or the United States.

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Queen Elisabeth’s trip to Japan and a train strike

Trade was the subject of the couple’s 18-day international trip that began with a conference near Kingston, Jamaica, the Queen discussing matters with senior government officials in the Commonwealth. The couple then took a few days off to themselves in Hawaii before getting into a touch of controversy in the then British-controlled city of Hong Kong. Pro-Chinese protesters rallied against Prince Philip’s visit to a university, saying through megaphones that it was a “waste of money”.

The royal couple’s visit to Japan, on the other hand, proved to be widely celebrated. Department stores, as the Associated Press reported at the time, raised more than $10 million worth of merchandise — medallions, clothing, furniture and other British imports — to sell to consumers.

The queen and her husband made plans on May 10 to travel to Kyoto via the shinkansen – a bullet train – but would have to wait and see if the strike would be resolved before finalizing their plans.

The four-day transportation strike, reported by the Associated Press as “crippling” travel plans across the country, ended before the royal couple left Kyoto. The Japanese government granted a 14% raise to employees’ pay, far below the union’s target of 30%.

Source: Japan Today.

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