• Kyodo

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A man driving a minicar attempted to ram a motorcade carrying Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko on Friday morning in Hokkaido.

A police motorcycle escort, however, blocked the car’s path, and the Imperial Couple were unharmed, police said.

The Imperial Couple’s car was damaged in the right front when the minicar hit one of the motorcycles. The motorcycle was knocked over and struck the Emperor’s car.

The incident occurred on a two-lane road, police said. The driver of the minicar, Osamu Koizumi, attempted to pass the tail of the motorcade from behind and ram the Imperial Couple’s car.

Osamu Koizumi was immediately arrested by Hokkaido Prefectural Police and charged with obstructing public duties. Police said they do not know where Koizumi, 35, lives or what he does for a living.

“I have come to see the Emperor,” police quoted Koizumi as saying following his arrest. He also made ambiguous statements to interrogators, they said.

The motorcade stopped for three minutes after the incident so the Emperor and Empress could change cars. They then proceeded on their tour of Hokkaido.

The National Police Agency said it is the first time a vehicle has tried to ram a motorcade carrying the Emperor.

According to local police, the incident took place at around 7:10 a.m. on National Route 38 in the city of Furano, which is known for its lavender fields. The motorcade was en route to the town of Nakafurano.

It consisted of two motorcycles in front, followed by an escort car, the vehicle carrying the Emperor and Empress, another escort car, a second pair of motorcycles, two more cars and finally a third pair of motorcycles at the tail.

In Tokyo, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi called for security measures for the Emperor to be reviewed thoroughly to prevent similar incidents.

According to the NPA, security measures taken during the Emperor’s movements outside of the Imperial Palace have been eased since the late 1990s. The Emperor reportedly wants police to avoid providing excessive security that could keep him too distant from the public.

When his father, Emperor Showa, was on the throne, police controlled traffic signals so that his motorcade passed through all intersections without stopping. Streets in the area around his destination, including the opposite lane and intersecting roads, were normally closed to traffic.

Today, sections of the road ahead of the motorcade and behind it are restricted, but the opposite lane is left open for regular traffic.

“We may have a situation where we are unable to stop somebody in a car in the oncoming lane from trying to hit the motorcade,” a senior NPA official admitted.

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