TOKYO -- Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko will visit the western Japan prefectures of Hiroshima, Okayama and Ehime in mid-September to console the victims of torrential rains that devastated those areas in July, according to an Imperial Household Agency plan under consideration.
The visits will consist of two separate day trips, with the first one covering Hiroshima and Okayama and the second one to Ehime on the island of Shikoku, say agency officials.
The Imperial Couple has already invited the governors of the three prefectures to the Imperial Palace to receive reports on the status of damage caused by the heavy rains, which killed more than 220 people and forced thousands to evacuate.
The Emperor and Empress hope to meet those hit by the historic natural disaster at a time that doesn't affect recovery work, according to those officials. The visits are planned as day trips to minimize the impact on local communities.
It will be the first time since October last year that the Imperial Couple will go to areas shortly after a disaster struck since their visit to the southern prefectures of Fukuoka and Oita following the torrential rains that wreaked havoc in the northern Kyushu region.
(Japanese original by Hiroyuki Takashima, City News Department)