Daily News

9. Emperor, Empress visit Okinoerabu Island

Japan's Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko have visited residents in Okinoerabu Island on the final day of a 3-day tour of southwestern remote islands in Kagoshima Prefecture.

On Saturday, the couple visited a lily farmer. A local specialty is a type of Easter lily, known as "Erabuyuri." The farmer ships about 250,000 lilies a year.

The Empress moved her face close to the lilies and praised their white petals and fragrance.

The couple then visited an elementary school and watched students making brown sugar with an apparatus. The work-study program has continued for more than 3 decades at the school.

The Emperor asked the children if the equipment for extracting sugarcane juice was heavy. The Empress sampled brown sugar made by the children and told them that it was sweet and tasty.

All of the 80 pupils at the school then sang a song about the local lily in front of an old banyan tree. The song describes the lily as the island's treasure, and how it supports the livelihoods of the people.

The Emperor and Empress listened to the song carefully and applauded with smiles. They later asked each pupil how things were going at the school.

The Emperor thanked the children for their performance, and wished them a fulfilling life.

At the airport on their way back to Tokyo, the couple repeatedly looked back and waved to people who came to see them off.