Hundreds of people lined Alexander Street in the Downtown Eastside yesterday, waving Japanese and Canadian flags to catch a glimpse of the Emperor and Empress of Japan.

The royal couple, who arrived in Vancouver on Friday as part of their visit to Canada, were given a tour of the Vancouver Japanese Language School and Japanese Hall by Mayor Gregor Robertson.

Aki Sakae, 42, originally from Yokohama, said joining the crowd of onlookers outside the school gave her a sense of nostalgia.

“(The Emperor and Empress) are a symbol of Japanese culture and … they remind me of my father and mother,” she said.

Tamae Ono’s daughter was singing for the royal couple inside the school.

“It’s an honour to see them with my daughter because she was born here and doesn’t know about Japan,” Ono said.

“When we stay in Japan we usually see them only on TV, but in front of me it’s very exciting.”

“This is a great honour for our city and this language school,” added Michael Hockertz, whose children attend the Japanese school. “It connects us to my wife’s family.

We talk a lot about Japanese culture, it’s part of our lives, and it’s that much special to have them here. It (enhances) our connection with Japan.”

with files from waka shimizu

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