SEOUL – Prince Takamado and his wife, Princess Hisako, arrived here Wednesday to attend the opening ceremony of the World Cup soccer finals.
The tournament, which is being cohosted by the two countries, begins Friday.
It is the first official visit to South Korea by members of the Imperial family.
After their arrival in the afternoon, the prince and princess laid flowers at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the National Cemetery in Seoul.
According to Japanese officials, the couple will make a courtesy call on President Kim Dae Jung, and visit an elementary school and historical sites during their stay.
The prince and princess will travel to Pusan to attend the match between Uruguay and Denmark on Saturday before returning to Japan on Monday, Imperial Household Agency officials said.
Although the visit is in response to an invitation by the South Korean government, Prince Takamado, who is a cousin of Emperor Akihito and honorary president of the Japan Football Association, was eager to make the trip, sources close to the agency said.
It took some time for the trip to be finalized, however, as some within the agency were concerned an official visit by a member of the Imperial family might affect talks over a formal visit to South Korea by the Emperor, the sources said.
Toshio Yuasa, Grand Steward of the Imperial Household, has said that “nothing more” should be read into Prince Takamado’s visit other than that he was invited to the World Cup match because he is the honorary president of the JFA.
Cup to draw envoys
Japan will become a hive of diplomatic activity during the upcoming World Cup soccer finals as foreign dignitaries from more than 10 countries visit to watch their country’s matches, Japanese officials said Wednesday.
South Korean President Kim Dae Jung and German President Johannes Rau are among the heads of state planning to attend the final match June 30 in Yokohama. The monthlong tournament kicks off Friday in Seoul.
Kim and Rau, whose country will host the next World Cup finals in 2006, are separately expected to hold talks with Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi during their stays, the officials said.
Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi is also likely to meet with some of the eight ministerial-level visitors expected in Japan, such as Cameroon’s Youth and Sports Minister Bidoung Mkwpatt and Senagalese Sports Minister Joseph Ndong.
There are also members of several royal families, including Belgian Crown Prince Philippe and Princess Mathilde, Britain’s Prince Andrew, and Jordanian King Abdullah, scheduled to come to Japan for the quadrennial soccer spectacle.
Crown Prince Naruhito and his wife, Princess Masako, will attend the Japan-Belgium match Tuesday in Saitama with Belgian Crown Prince Philippe and Princess Mathilde, according to the officials.
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