Imperial Couple ends tour of Baltics with Lithuania


Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko arrived in Lithuania from Latvia on Saturday, their final stop in the Baltic region before their 10-day five-nation tour of Europe moves on to Britain.

After meeting with Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus and his wife, Alma, they were to lay flowers at the Antakalnis Cemetery, where unarmed civilians killed by the Soviet military in Vilnius in January 1991 are buried.

The Imperial Couple were then to stop by a monument in the capital honoring Chiune Sugihara, a Japanese diplomat who was posted in the country during the war and saved thousands of Jews from the Nazi Holocaust by issuing them transit visas to escape to a third country.

The Emperor and Empress were also to watch Lithuanian entertainment in the evening.

Lithuania first declared independence in 1918 but was annexed by the Soviet Union in 1940. It redeclared independence in March 1990, which the Soviet Union approved in September 1991.

During a luncheon hosted by Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga in Riga, Latvia, the Emperor said he regretted a period during which Japan and Latvia did not maintain friendly relations, saying it is welcoming to see their old ties re-emerging.

“It was very regrettable that they were shut during World War II and amid the unfolding of history thereafter,” Emperor Akihito said.