Emperor, Empress visit Karuizawa tennis court where they first met 61 years ago

JIJI

Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko on Saturday visited the tennis court in Karuizawa, Nagano Prefecture, where they first met 61 years ago.

This is expected to become the Imperial Couple’s last visit to the memorable place before the Emperor’s abdication in late April next year.

While refraining from playing tennis, the couple chatted with the players on court.

“Nice shot,” the Emperor said while clapping from the bench.

After about 30 minutes, the Emperor and Empress left as they waved to the crowd.

In August 1957 then-Crown Prince Akihito and then-commoner Michiko Shoda faced off against each other in a doubles match on the same court. The encounter led to their marriage in April 1959.

Afterward, they visited the tennis court many times during their summer retreat, even playing once in August 2013.

“We are glad to be able to visit the tennis court,” the Emperor and the Empress were quoted as saying by Karuizawa-kai tennis club member Seiro Moroto, 69, who escorted the couple on Saturday.

“The conversations made me feel that the tennis court is a nostalgic place for them,” Moroto said.