Saturday, May 27, 2006


Imperial Sighting

While in Japan for some personal business, I took the shinkansen from Tokyo to Nagoya. It quickly became apparent that something was afoot in the Tokyo station because it was filled with police and secret service agents. As a New Yorker, this kind of thing makes me uncomfortable, and my first thought was that Tokyo must be under some sort of terrorism watch; this would be the natural thing to assume in the subway.

But then, up on the train platform, I looked across and saw this sight; photographers hovering over a neat line of men in suits with little imperial symbols pinned to their lapels. I became excited. A quick chat with a policeman confirmed that the Emperor and Empress were on their way back to Tokyo after a trip to Gifu-ken. The men waiting to meet the imperial couple are part of the cabinet.

There were literally minutes separating the departure of my train, and the arrival of theirs, but I figured out where the "Green Car" on the track next to ours would stop. And once it came, I, a group of middle aged women and a few bashful men were screaming "Michiko-sama!" And there she was, just as she appears on her photos. I don't know why this is so surprising. Of course statesmen and celebrities should be recognizable. It's just that so often celebrities don't look like their photos. So often you expect that a flesh-and-blood sighting will somehow be different than a static image. But both Empress Michiko and her husband looked . . . exactly as you would expect them to. She even had on one of those little hats.

Sadly, this is the best picture I was able to take, which is to say that I didn't take much of a picture at all. But I swear I did see them both and if I look hard enough, I can just see the outline of her shape in the window.

Here is a proper photo, with hat and all. Sadly this was not taken by me, but it gives you a sense of how they appeared.

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