Nervousness and smiles marked the faces of students who had the opportunity to meet Japan’s Prince Akishino and Princess Kiko on June 7 when the royal couple visited the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa.
This was the first visit the Japanese royal couple has made to UH. Prince Ashikino’s parents, Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko, have visited the UH Mānoa campus twice.
The prince and princess spoke with Japanese language students, who were prepared in the protocol of greeting a royal Japanese family member.
About 1,000 students take Japanese language classes each semester at UH Mānoa, which has the largest program in the country. Many graduates also take part in the Japan Exchange and Teaching Program (JET), which sends participants to teach English to students in Japan.
The prince and princess took time to speak with each student and faculty member that attended the event at the Queen Liliʻuokalani Center.
“Just to be in their presence, you know, you see them in pictures, we see them in the news. But to see them in person and just find out they’re down to earth and humble,” said senior Jackie Kojima.
Both Prince Akishino and Princess Kiko have advanced degrees. The prince has a PhD in ornithology and the princess has a PhD in psychology. The prince is also an official patron of the Japan Forestry Association and the Japan Association of Botanical Garden.
The royal couple later spent time with students and faculty at Ka Papa Loʻi ʻo Kānewai. The students demonstrated the planting and harvesting cycle of taro as the prince asked many questions.
“The princess came and she was really awesome and really sweet,” said UH Mānoa graduate student Kalena Lee-Agcaoili. “She was really interested in what we were doing here and our youth and my generation. (She) wanted to know about what we were doing here and what this was about.”
Students who had the chance to interact with the royal couple came back to the word “genuine” when describing what the time spent with the prince and princess was like.
The final stop on the UH Mānoa tour was a visit to Lyon Arboretum. Prince Akishino had an interest in the chickens that roam around the arboretum, his specialization is in the domestication of animals with an emphasis on chickens.
To commemorate the visit a ʻōhiʻa lehua tree was planted in one of the gardens.
The couple traveled to Hawaiʻi to mark the 150th anniversary of the first immigrants that traveled from Japan to the islands to become laborers in the sugar cane fields.