It was a surprise, really. No one knew anything about it before. They discreetly slipped a notice in our info package of the day, saying the Emperor and the Empress are visiting since they’re vacationing nearby. In the notice and every announcement that happened every 15 minutes afterwards, they kept emphasizing “Please wear your casual summer wear” and “the Emperor and Empress want to have a casual chat” with us. And if you’re wearing a suit jacket, you should take it off. I swear the word “casual” was repeated at least 15 times. It’s like the dentist telling you, “no, it’s not gonna hurt”, and it always fucking hurts. If it was so “casual”, you wouldn’t say it so damn much!
I guess it was a bit casual for Japanese standards. The royal couple had the golden screen behind them. We stood on two sides to make a “red carpet” of sorts and clapped when they walked in all the way till they reached the screen. They looked really sweet and nice. We had to form two lines to talk to each of them, and each of us had about 20 seconds. The people who went first took a long time though, so when I got to me I only got to say to the Empress (in Japanese) that I’m from VN, live in the US, do research on aging and emotion, and that I’m glad to meet her. She asked me “Oh so you do research on the entire lifespan from the beginning to end?” and I said yes anyway because she was being rushed by her staff (thank god I don’t do baby research…). She was a very nice woman, speaks really good English, and asks intelligent questions (to the other people who had more time to talk with her). I enjoyed the brief encounter – powerful or not, they still occupy a special place in Japanese culture and consciousness, and it’s nice to meet someone that I wouldn’t have been able to meet otherwise. Read more about it in the articles below (in Japanese). The pictures I had here were from the articles – no photos from any other than the press were allowed.