King welcomes Japan's emperor for state visit to UK

Britain's King Charles and Queen Camilla have welcomed Japan's Emperor Naruhito and his wife to London, marking the start of a three-day state visit which includes a military parade, carriage procession and state banquet.

Charles' son and heir to the throne Prince William had earlier travelled to the hotel where the 64-year-old emperor and Empress Masako were staying, before the trio arrived for a ceremonial welcome at Horse Guards Parade on Tuesday.

The two heads of state, Charles wearing a top hat, then inspected the Guard of Honour as the rows of soldiers in their traditional scarlet uniforms and black bearskin hats stood in the summer heat.

Japans Emperor Naruhito, escorted by Britain's King Charles III
King Charles escorts Emperor Naruhito as he inspects an honour guard at the palace. (AP PHOTO)

They then travel to Buckingham Palace in a gold-edged horse-driven carriage.

The emperor's trip seeks to celebrate and deepen the military, cultural and scientific ties between the two countries, and was postponed from 2020 due to the pandemic.

It is taking place in the run-up to an election in Britain on July 4, meaning that some of the usual political elements will be missing.

There will be no meeting at Downing Street between the emperor and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, although Sunak and Opposition Leader Kier Starmer will both attend the state banquet at Buckingham Palace on Tuesday evening.

Empress Masako and Emperor Naruhito, King Charles and Queen Camilla
King Charles, Queen Camilla and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak welcome Japan's imperial couple. (AP PHOTO)

The visit comes at a difficult time for the British monarchy, after Charles, 75, was diagnosed with cancer earlier in 2024, and as William's wife Catherine undergoes preventive chemotherapy treatment for cancer.

In another setback, Princess Anne, Charles' younger sister suffered a head injury on Sunday after an incident believed to have involved a horse.

While she is expected to make a full recovery, she has pulled out of attending the state banquet.

Emperor Naruhito went to London in 2022 to attend Queen Elizabeth's funeral, and is fond of Britain, having studied here in the early 1980s.

Prince William greets Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako
Prince William greets Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako at their hotel. (AP PHOTO)

He has spoken of the kindness the British royals showed him at that time, including a visit to the royal family at Balmoral Castle in Scotland, where Charles took him fly fishing.

The pair will have time to discuss those memories over lunch at Buckingham Palace on Tuesday.

They will then view Japanese-related items from the royal collection before a tour of Westminster Abbey in the afternoon.