• Kyodo

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The Emperor and Empress attended a Monday evening banquet hosted by Swedish King Carl Gustaf and Queen Silvia at the Stockholm Royal Palace.

The two couples, in swallow-tailed coats and intricately decorated evening dresses, sat together and chatted during the banquet.

“I sincerely hope the people of our two countries will continue cooperating with each other to realize their common wish — world peace and prosperity,” the Emperor said in a speech.

The Emperor recounted memories of his 1953 visit to Sweden — he had stopped here on his way home from Britain, where he attended the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. He also discussed the history of exchanges between Japan and Sweden that began in the 17th century.

The banquet opened with a toast following an address by the king, in which he suggested the two countries might learn from each other as they seek solutions to problems they are facing, particularly environmental issues and aging societies.

About 170 people attended the dinner.

Earlier Monday, the Emperor and Empress attended a welcoming ceremony at the palace during which the Emperor inspected the imperial guards, following a 15-minute carriage ride with the king and queen from the Royal Mews to the palace.

The Emperor then met with Swedish Parliament Speaker Birgitta Dahl and Prime Minister Goran Persson.

The Swedish royal couple accompanied the Emperor and Empress on a visit to a museum exhibiting stone tools, pottery, porcelain and bronze works from China, the Korean Peninsula, Japan, India and other Asian regions.

At the museum, the Emperor and Empress also attended the opening ceremony for an exhibition on Japanese design, featuring the work of fashion designers and architects.

The Imperial Couple last visited Sweden in 1985 as Crown Prince and Princess. They are scheduled to leave Stockholm today and return to Japan on Thursday.

They arrived in Sweden on Sunday on the last leg of their four-nation European tour, which also took them to Switzerland, the Netherlands and Finland.

Showa bill dropped

The Cabinet Committee of the House of Representatives on Tuesday adjourned deliberations without voting on a bill to designate April 29 as Showa Day.

The bill is aimed at commemorating the late Emperor Showa.

The Showa Day bill will likely be killed as the ruling coalition is finding it difficult to steamroll it through the Lower House ahead of the June 25 general election, political sources said.

The sources also said the enactment of the bill is untimely because of mounting calls from the opposition for the resignation of Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori over his remark that Japan is a divine nation with the emperor at its core.

Members of opposition parties were absent from the committee session Tuesday. April 29 was a national holiday during Emperor Showa’s reign because it was his birthday. The holiday was redesignated as Greenery Day after his death in 1989.

The Showa Day bill calls for Greenery Day to be shifted to May 4, now a people’s holiday.

The House of Councilors passed the bill on May 13 and sent it immediately to the Lower House for further deliberations.

Critics said Mori’s “divine nation” statement not only reminded people of the ideology that drove Japan into war in Asia and the Pacific in the name of Emperor Showa, but also ran counter to the separation of religion and state enshrined in the Constitution.

During the committee meeting, Liberal Democratic Party Upper House member Takao Koyama, one of the bill’s proponents, explained the legislation’s purposes and said the point is to look back on the Showa Era for “guidance for the future.”

“The bill has nothing to do with Prime Minister Mori’s remark,” Koyama said.