TOKYO -- Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko left Tokyo on the Tohoku Shinkansen Line on June 9 for Fukushima Prefecture where they will attend a tree-planting ceremony and meet residents of disaster-hit areas who were forced to evacuate.
This will likely be the Imperial Couple's last visit to any of the three Tohoku prefectures hit hardest by the March 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami before the Emperor abdicates in April 2019.
Later on June 9, the Emperor and the Empress will meet people who were forced to evacuate following the disaster and are living in public housing in the Fukushima Prefecture city of Iwaki as evacuees.
The Imperial Couple will attend a tree-planting ceremony in the city of Minamisoma, Fukushima Prefecture, on June 10. The following day, the Imperial Couple will dedicate flowers to a cenotaph for those who lost their lives to tsunami in Soma, and visit a fisheries product wholesale market that was built after the disaster.
It has been a customary practice for the emperor and empress to attend the annual tree-planting ceremony since it was held for the first time in 1950.
Crown Prince Naruhito and Crown Princess Masako will take over this duty for the next tree-planting ceremony to be held in Aichi Prefecture in spring 2019 after the Crown Prince accedes to the Imperial Throne in May that year.