• Kyodo

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The Emperor and Empress arrived in Finland on Friday, where flag-waving well-wishers gathered outside the presidential palace to give them an enthusiastic welcome for their three-day visit.

The Emperor and Empress, currently on a four-nation tour of Europe, were greeted by the Finnish public at the Presidential Palace shortly after flying into Helsinki after a four-day visit to the Netherlands.

Finnish President Tarja Halonen and her husband, Pentti Arajavi, ushered the Imperial Couple onto the balcony of the palace where the Emperor and Empress waved to the crowd braving the Nordic cold.

“Finland is a cold country, but our people are very warm in their heart,” Halonen told the Emperor and Empress later during a meeting at the palace.

In an exchange of gifts, Halonen gave the Emperor and Empress two stuffed dolls.

At a state banquet Friday night, the Emperor and Halonen pledged to promote closer ties between their two nations.

“Our two countries have been vigorously engaged in the promotion of peace at international forums and we greatly appreciate the contribution Japan has made at the United Nations,” Halonen said in a speech at the banquet.

The Emperor hailed cooperation between Japan and Finland in various fields and said he is eager to see the two countries further promote their friendship and understanding in the future.

The Imperial Couple plan to stay in Finland until Sunday before traveling to Sweden for the last stop of their European tour.