Japanese imperial couple comes to Prague this weekend

Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko

The Japanese imperial couple - Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko - will arrive in Prague for a three day unofficial visit this coming weekend. This is the very first visit by a Japanese imperial couple since the creation of an independent Czechoslovakia in 1918.

Despite the fact that only a small number of mutual official visits took place in the twentieth century, relations between the two countries are good. Back in 1918, the first Czechoslovak president Tomas Garrigue Masaryk visited Japan on his way to the United States, and after the fall of Communism in 1989, visits of state representatives became more frequent. President Vaclav Havel was in Japan twice, Princess Sayako visited the Czech Republic in 1996 and two yeas ago, the Czech First Lady, Dagmar Havlova attended a festival of Czech culture in Tokyo.

President Vaclav Havel considers the visit as one of the most important events of the year, his spokesman Ladislav Spacek told Alena Skodova:

"President Havel is very proud that the Japanese imperial couple decided to visit the Czech Republic because I think it's a picture of great success that the Czech Republic has made since its Velvet revolution. We hope that the visit will contribute to better cooperation between our two countries - not only in business, but also in culture and in all kinds of matters of interest."

Can you tell us what programme the couple will have here?

"The imperial couple will come on Saturday, in late afternoon, and on Sunday the programme is devoted to Prague, the Emperor will visit all Prague's remarkable places - the Old Town Hall, Charles Bridge, the Municipal House, the Lichtenstein palace, and he will stroll the streets with Empress Michiko. The next day, the programme will be held at Prague Castle: it means talks with president Havel and Mrs. Havlova, a sightseeing tour around Prague Castle - St. Vitus Cathedral, Old Royal Palace, and they will also visit the seat of the Vaclav and Dagmar Havel Foundation 'Vision 97'. The climax will be a joint lunch of the two couples, Czech and Japanese. "

Will there be tight security measures in Prague during the imperial visit?

"Well, the visit is really very important and we realize that the Czech Republic is responsible for the imperial couple. I think it's also a great honour for the Czech side to make all arrangements by ourselves, but we don't want to bother citizens of Prague and to make troubles, so I hope that the security measures will not be visible for ordinary people."