TORONTO (AP) – Japan’s Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko were greeted by Canada’s foreign affairs minister Friday when they arrived in Ottawa for the royal couple’s first-ever visit to Canada together.

The royal couple will spend 11 days in Canada to attend various ceremonies and events before traveling to Hawaii.

“Both Canada and the state of Hawaii are home to many people of Japanese ancestry,” Akihito said in a statement ahead of the trip. “We are looking forward to meeting these people in various places during our trip and further deepen our understanding of the paths they have taken to this day.”

The 75-year-old Akihito has not been to Canada since he visited as an 19-year-old crown prince in April 1953, when he toured several Canadian cities en route to the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in Britain. He was not married at the time.

Akihito still remembers taking the transcontinental train for four days that year, as well as the warm greetings he received from Japanese immigrants at each stop along the way.

“I was deeply touched,” he said.

A year after his visit, Japan and Canada signed the peace treaty ending World War II hostility.

His current visit celebrates several significant anniversaries in 2009, including the 80th anniversary of Japan-Canada diplomatic relations, Akihito’s 20th year as emperor and the royal couple’s 50th wedding anniversary.

On Saturday, the couple will visit MacKenzie King estate in the Gatineau park, which was once the home to Canada’s longest serving prime minister. King served from 1921-1926, 1926-1930 and 1935-1948.

The following day, they will attend a Canadian-Japanese reception, before meeting on Monday with Governor General Michaelle Jean and Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

They will then travel to Toronto, Victoria and Vancouver.

Canadian officials hope the elderly couple will comfortably handle the flurry of events.

Akihito has osteoporosis and is still recovering from stress-linked irregular pulse. He has also undergone surgery and treatment for cancer.

Michiko injured her knee during a tennis game in February and has had stress-related illnesses over the years, including a nervous breakdown that left her unable to speak in the early 1990s.


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