UK

Prince William arrives in Japan for four-day visit

Prince William at traditional tea ceremony in Tokyo Image copyright Pool

The Duke of Cambridge has taken part in a traditional tea ceremony in Tokyo at the start of a four-day visit to Japan.

He spent about 40 minutes taking part in the ritual at Hama Rikyu Gardens.

Prince William is on a week-long trip to China and Japan where he will undertake engagements to promote UK relations with both countries.

In his first visit to the country he also took a speedboat ride to Tokyo Bay, which will host much of the 2020 Summer Olympics.

The last time a major member of Britain's royal family visited Japan was in 2008 when the duke's father, Prince Charles, came with his wife Camilla.

Hundreds of students and school children waving British and Japanese flags waited in the rain to greet him.

The Duchess of Cambridge is not with her husband as she is due to give birth to their second child in April.

Image copyright Tim Rooke / PA
Image caption Dr Genshitsu Sen also performed a tea ceremony for Prince William's parents

On the first day of his tour Prince William visited the Nakajima tea house, built 350 years ago in Japan's Edo period, in the middle of a small lake within the Hama-Rikyu gardens.

As he entered the tea house, Prince William removed his shoes like the other guests, which included Tokyo governor Yoichi Masuzoe.

Dr Genshitsu Sen, who is 92 and the 15th generation of his family to hold a senior role in the spiritual art of tea making, performed the traditional ceremony.

He also made tea for Prince William's parents, Prince Charles and Princess Diana, when they visited Kyoto in 1986. Close to 100,000 people flocked to a parade in Tokyo at the time, as so-called "Diana Fever" swept the nation.

A number of gifts were given to the duke, including a box of crackers, a book about the tea ceremony and a modern tea bowl decorated with a horse design in celebration of Prince George.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The Duke of Cambridge is greeted by students at Hama Rikyu Gardens
Image copyright EPA
Image copyright Reuters
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Prince William was escorted by Tokyo Governor Yoichi Masuzoe

On Friday, the prince is due to meet fellow royals Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko at the Imperial Palace.

In this his first visit to Japan, he will also be taken to the areas devastated by the 2011 tsunami and meet survivors.

In Shanghai, the Duke will launch the three-day Great Festival of Creativity at the city's Long Museum next Monday.

It will promote British commercial creativity and innovation to a business audience from the UK, China and beyond, with the aim of creating opportunities for UK companies wanting to expand their markets.


Analysis

Image copyright Reuters

By Peter Hunt, royal correspondent, BBC News

This visit - especially the three days he'll spend in China next week - will be the most significant Prince William has undertaken.

He's been travelling overseas - representing either the government or the Queen - for 10 years now. He'll be doing it for many more years to come.

Supporters argue such work is all about enhancing the status of Britain abroad. Critics maintain it's more to do with promoting the House of Windsor.

The prince is balancing his development as a senior royal with his soon-to-begin commitments as an air ambulance pilot. As heir but one, William can and does exploit the flexibility on offer to him.

Read more from Peter on his correspondent's page.


Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Prince William takes a boat trip around Tokyo Bay with Governor Yoichi Masuzoe

Further highlights of the Far East trip will include a visit to Beijing's Forbidden City.

The Duke is also hoping to see Asian elephants in the wild during his visit to China.

William, who has campaigned to end the illegal trade in ivory and other endangered animal products, will travel to the Yunnan Province next Wednesday where 250 wild Asian elephants still roam free.

Meanwhile as he touched down in Japan, Kensington Palace confirmed that the Duke had completed the last of his 14 exams needed to earn his Air Transport Pilot Licence.

He will be employed by Bond Air Services and is due to start work with East Anglian Air Ambulance in the summer.