Emperor Akihito to visit July deluge victims in Okayama

Japanese Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko embarked on a one-day trip to Okayama Prefecture on Friday to meet those affected by deadly July downpours in western Japan.

The imperial couple departed Tokyo’s Haneda airport for areas hard hit by torrential rains that caused widespread landslides and flooding, killing more than 200 people mainly in Okayama, Hiroshima and Ehime prefectures.

They had planned to visit both Okayama and Hiroshima prefectures on Thursday but were forced to push back their schedule and give up their Hiroshima visit due to bad weather. They will rearrange their trip to Hiroshima Prefecture.

In Okayama, the couple will visit a lookout in the city of Kurashiki where they will be able to see the areas affected by the disaster before being briefed by the city mayor and meeting with local people.

Prior to their visit, the emperor and empress invited the governors of Okayama, Hiroshima and Ehime prefectures, which were severely affected by the rains, to the Imperial Palace in July and August to hear about the damage.

A day trip to Ehime is also being arranged for the couple on Sept. 20, according to the Imperial Household Agency.

Their last visit to a disaster-affected area took place in June when they traveled to witness the reconstruction of Fukushima from the March 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster.

Hoping to lessen the burden on local governments to provide security, the emperor and empress often choose to make day trips to disaster-hit areas, sometimes using helicopters.

In May 2016, they flew to Kumamoto Prefecture on a chartered flight about a month after strong earthquakes hit the southwestern Japan region, before boarding a Self-Defense Forces helicopter to visit evacuees from the quake.

(Homes submerged by torrential rains in Kurashiki, Okayama, in July)

All — Kyodo News+

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