10 JULY 2008

There was a chance to experience one of the world's most ancient cultures for Canada's First Lady Laureen Harper and other wives of key world leaders as they joined their husbands on the ancient Japanese island of Hokkaido for the three-day G8 summit.

While Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his contemporaries including British premier Gordon Brown and US leader George Bush discussed global issues on the first day of the international meeting, Japanese premier Yasuo Fukuda's wife Kiyoko Fukuda entertained the women. Laureen and Sarah Brown looked on with interest as they were given a demonstration of a model being dressed in a majestic 12-layered junihitoe kimono, usually reserved for royalty.

The group, who also included Laura Bush on what would be her last trip to the annual global summit, were then given the chance to try on some traditional costume themselves - the ceremonial robes of the indigenous Ainu people, who are said to have settled the island 20,000 years ago.

And it wasn't just the historical side of Japan's rich culture the First Ladies were shown during their time on the island, which is located at the north end of Japan and has a number of active volcanoes. They were also greeted by a humanoid robot, who treated them to a dance, and Laureen took a ride in a futuristic-looking environmentally friendly single-seater vehicle.

Photo: © Alphapress.com
While their husbands were discussing global issues on the first day of the G8 Summit, the Japanese premier's wife Kiyoko Fukuda (far right) took their spouses to see a demonstration of how to don a royal kimono. From left: Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper's wife Laureen, Gordon Brown's wife Sarah, America's First Lady Laura Bush and the Russian premier's wife Svetlana Medvedev Photo: © Getty ImagesClick on photos for gallery
Photo: © Alphapress.com
The ladies try on the traditional robes of Hokkaido's indigenous Ainu people, who settled the island where the meeting took place 20,000 years ago Photo: © AFP
Photo: © Alphapress.com
And it wasn't just a taste of ancient culture that was on the agenda. During a visit to an ecological centre Laureen got a chance to try out some of Japan's pioneering technology - an environmentally friendly single-seat vehicle Photo: © Getty Images