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Japanese royals reminisce with old acquaintances on a trip down memory lane

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The memories came flooding back for Emperor Akihito and his wife, seen here in Canada this week, as they poured over photos of his previous trip to the country in 1953
 Photo: © Rex

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During their visit they met several acquaintances, including former university colleagues of the empress, who regaled them with stories of the past
 Photo: © Rex

15 JULY 2009

In 1953 a shy young prince of 19 visited Canada on his first trip abroad and was delighted by his warm reception.

This week, the royal - now Emperor Akihito of Japan - returned, and was keen to retrace his steps at every stage of the 12-day tour with his wife Michiko.

The imperial couple were seen giggling to each other as they watched old newsreel of the emperor's previous visit.

Later he also had a reunion with three men who acted as his guide all those years ago.

In what was very much a trip down memory lane,  the empress met several acquaintances from her past, too. 

One of them was an 80-year-old Vancouver lady who told the royal matriarch they used take the same streetcar to class at the University of Sacred Heart in Tokyo.

Miriam Vatts recalled how she once helped Michiko out of a tight spot.

"You didn't have change, only a large bill," she said. "The conductor was angry because it was early in the morning. So, I lent you change."

To which the empress replied: "Oh, did I ever pay you back?". 

They also chatted about how Michiko - then about to become the first commoner to marry into the imperial family - took refuge from reporters in the Sacred Heart faculty when press interest was at its height because of her and Akihito's courtship.

Three other alumnae in attendance also brought memories flooding back. After mentioning names of their sisters and cousins, who would have been her classmates to the empress, Michiko nodded her head in recognition.

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