'Adapted' Japanese state visit hosted by King to go ahead despite election

Japan's Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako. Credit: AP

The Japanese state visit to the UK hosted by the King will go ahead in a “slightly adapted” form, despite the General Election.

In an unprecedented move, the King and Queen will entertain Emperor Naruhito and his wife Empress Masako just days before the country goes to the polls.

It will take place from Tuesday June 25 to Thursday June 27, ending just a week before the July 4 vote.

During Elizabeth II’s 70-year reign, no state visits were hosted between the calling of a general election and polling day.

In 2017, a Spanish state visit by King Felipe VI was quickly rescheduled because the date clashed with a snap election in the UK.

The Palace declined to confirm exact details of how the original plans for the Japanese visit have been amended.

A Palace spokesperson said: “As a general principle, it has of course been adapted as a result of the current pre-election period of sensitivity.”

Missing elements appear to be the usual Downing Street talks with the prime minister, a speech to the Palace of Westminster by the visiting head of state, and meetings with opposition leaders.

There was no clarification from the Palace as to whether Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, Foreign Secretary Lord Cameron, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer and others would be invited to the white tie state banquet.

Royal expert Joe Little of Majesty magazine said: “It’s unprecedented. I assumed as soon as the election was announced that the state visit would bite the dust again because of the huge amount of prime ministerial and government involvement with it.”

Emperor Naruhito (right) and Empress Masako after attending the Japan Prize presentation ceremony in Tokyo. Credit: AP

State visits are planned by the Foreign Office, in consultation with the Palace.

Heir to the throne the Prince of Wales will also take part in the visit, greeting the Emperor and Empress at their hotel on behalf of the King on Tuesday June 25, and accompanying them to Horse Guards Parade.

The King and Queen will formally welcome their guests, and Charles will inspect the Guard of Honour, before a carriage procession back to the Palace with Camilla and William.

After lunch at the royal residence, the guests will tour a Royal Collection exhibition in the Picture Gallery and then lay a wreath at the Grave of the Unknown Warrior in Westminster Abbey.

In the evening, Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako will attend a lavish state banquet, where both the King and the Emperor will give speeches.

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