Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko of Japan were touched by the warmth and hospitality accorded to them during their two-day visit to Chennai. “Their majesties are very grateful for the warm reception” and the visit would help enhance and develop ties between India and Japan, the Emperor’s Press Secretary and former Ambassador to India Sakutaro Tanino said here on Thursday.

He was briefing presspersons ahead of the departure to Japan of the royal couple, who arrived in New Delhi on November 30. Chennai was the only other city they visited. On Thursday, Mr. Tanino said they went to Guindy National Park (where they interacted with children) and attended a luncheon hosted in their honour by Governor, K. Rosaiah, at Raj Bhavan, in which Chief Minister Jayalalithaa participated. Earlier, the Governor had presented the royal couple with an album of the commemorative stamp released coinciding with their visit to India.

At the lunch, Ms. Jayalalithaa and the Empress discussed dance, music, musical instruments and Indian culture and cuisines. The Chief Minister spoke about agriculture, social welfare and the efforts made to upgrade the social status of women. Akkarai Sisters, S. Subhalakshmi and S. Swarnalatha performed on the occasion.

The royal couple also visited the Spastics Society of Tamil Nadu. In the evening, they met representatives of Japanese residents in the four southern States. Mr. Tanino said it was apparent from the discussion that Chennai was set to become a popular destination for Japanese investment for a number of reasons, particularly high quality of labour and peace and order. However, it was pointed out that infrastructure needed to be improved, particularly power and water supply.

Chennai, he added, could be the gateway for Japan to cater to the Asean market. There was also considerable scope of improvement in the flow of tourists and students between India and Japan.

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