Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko of Japan concluded their 12-day state visit to Canada yesterday with a rock-star-like welcome and reception at Vancouver’s new convention centre.

The royal couple walked from Canada Place past crowds of several hundred people, many of whom were waving Japanese flags. A few young girls were dressed in yukata (a summer kimono).

“The Emperor and Empress were very warm and friendly,” said Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie.

“They approached the people in the crowd and just seemed drawn to them.”

Inside the convention centre, the Emperor and Empress were introduced to four people the Emperor had met during a visit to Canada as crown prince in 1953.

Vancouver Coun. Suzanne Anton, who was among those who spoke with the royal couple, described them as “utterly charming.”

She said it was a historic moment, adding it was important that they paid tribute to Canada’s Japanese pioneers with a visit to the Japanese Hall on Sunday.

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