Emperor and Empress visit those affected by July rains in Okayama

Kyodo

Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko made a one-day trip to Okayama Prefecture on Friday and met people affected by the deadly downpours in western Japan in July.

The Imperial Couple visited areas hit by torrential rains, which caused widespread landslides and flooding that killed more than 200 people mainly in Okayama, Hiroshima and Ehime prefectures.

They flew to Okayama Airport by plane and then boarded a Self-Defense Forces helicopter to visit the city of Kurashiki, before returning to Tokyo in the afternoon.

They had planned to visit both Okayama and Hiroshima prefectures on Thursday, but were forced to push back their schedule and give up on their Hiroshima visit due to bad weather. They will visit Hiroshima later.

Before the visit, the Emperor and Empress invited the governors of Okayama, Hiroshima and Ehime prefectures, which were severely affected by the rains, to the Imperial Palace in July and August to discuss the damage.

A day trip to Ehime is also being arranged for the couple on Sept. 20, according to the Imperial Household Agency.

Their last visit to a disaster-affected area took place in June when they traveled to Fukushima Prefecture to check on reconstruction work from the March 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis.

Hoping to lessen the security burden on local governments, the Emperor and Empress often choose to make day trips to the disaster-hit areas, sometimes using helicopters.

In May 2016 they flew to Kumamoto Prefecture on a chartered flight about a month after strong earthquakes hit the southwestern region, before boarding an SDF helicopter to visit those who evacuated because of the quake.