• Kyodo


Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko were greeted by Kumamoto Prefecture’s official mascot, the popular black bear character called Kumamon, at the prefectural office Monday.

The Imperial Couple, who have been visiting the prefecture since Saturday, thanked Kumamon for his display of comical movements.

After being introduced to the ruddy-cheeked bear by Kumamoto Gov. Ikuo Kabashima, Empress Michiko asked if Kumamon is single.

“To avoid crushing children’s dreams, Kumamon is (just) Kumamon,” Kabashima replied with a wry smile.

Before meeting with Kumamon, the Imperial Couple visited the main building of Kumamoto Castle, which was restored five years ago.

On Sunday, they paid their first visit to the city of Minamata, where industrial emissions of a toxic substance gave birth to the Minamata mercury-poisoning disease.

The couple laid flowers at the monument to Minamata victims and met a victim of the disease at the Minamata Disease Municipal Museum after attending a public event on sea resources there.

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