Japanese royals touch down in Hawaii


June 18, 2010 Updated Oct 12, 2010 at 5:09 PM EDT

Hundreds of flag-waving well-wishers thronged a famous Hawaiian park as Japan's Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko arrived on the final leg of their North American tour.

The Japanese royals delighted crowds who turned out for their appearance at Waikiki's Kapiolani Park, shortly after their arrival here from Canada, the last stop of their 15-day trip.

Spectators -- Japanese nationals, tourists and local residents -- waved paper Japanese flags and cheered as the royal motorcade rolled into the park.

The 75-year-old emperor and 74-year-old empress waved to the crowd and spoke with guests for about 30 minutes before departing.

It was Yoshiko Tsukagoshi's first time seeing the royal couple in person.

"It's kind of a dream," the Japanese visitor said.

Oahu resident Harriet Lum, 66, a third-generation Japanese American, had arrived at the park about four hours early to secure a spot to see the emperor.

"It just brought tears to my eyes to just see him," she said. "There's so many Japanese people that live here. We have a lot of culture, a lot of tradition. For us it's really, really special. We can relate to him."

Hawaii has a large Japanese American community. Some 200,000 residents, about 16 percent, are of Japanese ancestry, according to the US Census Bureau.

The royal couple will lay a wreath Wednesday at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl, where American war dead are buried, including those killed in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, which dragged the United States into World War II.

Later Wednesday, the couple will attend a banquet for the 50th anniversary of the Crown Prince Akihito scholarship, created in 1959.

They will then visit Hawaii's Big Island on Thursday before flying back to Japan.

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