14 NOVEMBER 2008

A very special royal gathering welcomed Spain's King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia as they arrived in Japan to begin a six-day visit. Not only were Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko at Tokyo's Imperial Palace to officially greet them, but so too were Crown Prince Naruhito and his wife Princess Masako.

A demonstration of the good relations between the two countries, the princess' presence at Monday's ceremony was the first time in five years that the mother-of-one, who suffers from a stress-induced illness, has appeared at such an event.

Following the warm welcome, which marks the Spanish royals' first visit to the country since attending the Winter Olympics in 1998, the king and queen were treated to a diverse cross-section of Japanese culture on their tour.

Frequently accompanied by their royal hosts - who also held a state banquet in their honour - Juan Carlos and his wife were shown displays of traditional sword fighting and martial arts, as well as introduced to a robot.

The Spanish royal couple, who spent their honeymoon in Japan in 1962, made their own contribution to cultural exchange by attending the official opening of Tokyo's Cervantes Institute, which teaches Spanish culture and language.

Photo: ©
Taking their places alongside Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko, the Spanish royals receive a traditional welcome at a gala dinner in their honour Photo: © Getty Images Click on photos for gallery
Photo: ©
In a rare public outing, Princess Masako - who was unable to join her husband, the Crown Prince, when he visited Spain earlier this year - arrives at Tokyo's Imperial Palace to welcome the Spanish royals Photo: © Getty Images