Bhutan’s royals first state guests

Kyodo

The king and queen of Bhutan attended a welcoming ceremony Wednesday hosted by Crown Prince Naruhito at the Imperial Palace, the Imperial Household Agency said, noting the pair are the first state guests Japan has received since the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

Wearing traditional Bhutanese dress, King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck and Queen Jetsun Pema were greeted by the Crown Prince on behalf of Emperor Akihito, who has been hospitalized with bronchitis.

During conversations following the ceremony, the Crown Prince reportedly thanked Wangchuck for holding a special prayer session in a Bhutanese monastery for victims of the March disaster. He also relayed a message from the Emperor expressing his regret for not being able to welcome the royal couple in person.

The Bhutanese royal couple were scheduled to attend a banquet at the palace Wednesday evening, the agency said.

The 31-year-old king and 21- year-old queen, who married last month, arrived in Japan on Tuesday and met with Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and his wife, during which they expressed their condolences for the victims of the March 11 calamity.

Wangchuck also expressed his gratitude to Noda for Japan’s economic cooperation with Bhutan, according to the Foreign Ministry.

Noda welcomed the couple’s marriage and expressed his readiness to further bolster relations between Japan and Bhutan as this year marks the 25th anniversary of the establishment of bilateral diplomatic ties, the ministry said.

The couple are scheduled Friday to visit an elementary school and other places outside the no-go zone around the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, according to the Foreign Ministry. They will visit Kyoto on Saturday.

Emperor running fever

Emperor Akihito, 77, who has been hospitalized since Nov. 6 with bronchitis, has been running a fever of nearly 39 degrees and will cancel all official duties for the rest of the month, the Imperial Household Agency said.