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King Charles hails ties as Japan’s Emperor Naruhito makes UK state visit

King Charles hailed Britain and Japan’s “close friendship” at a lavish state banquet for Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako at Buckingham Palace on Tuesday as the Japanese royals began a three-day state visit.

It is the first state visit to the UK by a Japanese head of state since 1998 and, unusually for such a trip, comes during a general election campaign.

Some typical political elements, such as a Downing Street visit, have been scrapped in line with neutrality rules but all the traditional pomp and pageantry has been maintained.

The emperor and empress, who arrived on Saturday and held informal weekend engagements, were formally greeted by Charles and Queen Camilla in central London to the sound of gun salutes and the two countries’ national anthems.

They also met a host of other dignitaries, including Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, whose government has pushed for closer ties with Japan in recent years.

Naruhito, 64, and Charles, 75, inspected the guard of honour before the royals travelled the short distance to Buckingham Palace in a carriage procession for lunch.

The king, hosting his first state visit since it was revealed in February that he has cancer, later took his guests to a special exhibition of items from the Royal Collection relating to Japan.

He showed the emperor a delicately-painted scroll from 1855 from Queen Victoria’s library showing the 17th-century coronation of Emperor Go-Mizunoo.

The current emperor could be heard saying “wonderful, wonderful” as he examined the objects on show.

The visiting royals next headed to lay a wreath at the Grave of the Unknown Warrior at Westminster Abbey, where they attended Queen Elizabeth’s state funeral in September 2022.

The day ended with a lavish state banquet where Charles