As a fierce May hail storm turns the ground around them white, Empress Michiko, flanked by Queen Sonja, puts a reassuring arm around the pregnant princess' waist
Photo: AFP
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Earlier in the day Norway's Crown Princess Mette-Marit had greeted the Imperial couple at Oslo airport
Photo: AFP

11 MAY 2005

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It's been an "interesting" trip weather-wise for the Emperor and Empress of Japan, who are currently on an official visit to Ireland and Norway.

Earlier in the week the couple were caught out by an unexpected downpour as they visited a religious settlement on the east coast of the Emerald Isle. Then, on Tuesday, Empress Michiko was forced to take shelter yet again as a hail storm battered dignitaries during official welcoming ceremonies in Oslo.

The senior Japanese royal revealed a caring side to her nature when she sought shelter with Mette-Marit and Queen Sonja beneath a flower-bedecked pavilion. As the ferocity of the hail storm carpeted the courtyard in white, Michiko reached out a reassuring arm to the pregnant crown princess, who is expecting her third child.

Mette-Marit, whose husband Crown Prince Haakon is standing in as regent for his 68-year-old father King Harald while he recovers from heart surgery, had earlier greeted Akihito and Michiko upon their arrival at Oslo airport.

The Imperial couple are in Norway for a four-day state visit which returns King Harald's and Queen Sonja's 2001 trip to Japan.

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