Caroline Kennedy meets Japan emperor in ceremonial pomp

Caroline Kennedy met Japan`s Emperor Akihito Tuesday in a ceremonial formality as thousands of well-wishers lined the streets of Tokyo to catch a glimpse of the incoming US ambassador.

AFP| Last Updated: Nov 19, 2013, 15:30 PM IST

Tokyo: Caroline Kennedy met Japan`s Emperor Akihito Tuesday in a ceremonial formality as thousands of well-wishers lined the streets of Tokyo to catch a glimpse of the incoming US ambassador.

Kennedy, 55, the lone surviving child of the assassinated John F Kennedy, travelled to the downtown Imperial Palace by horse-drawn carriage in an elaborate procession, accompanied by palace officials clad in European-style ceremonial attire.

In a rare public display of affection for a foreign dignitary, throngs of cheering spectators with cameras lined the wide boulevards leading to the heart of the Japanese capital.

Well-wishers hollered "Kennedy-san! Kennedy-san!", as the procession weaved its way along the streets with Kennedy, wearing a dark dress and pearl necklace, waving from inside the carriage.

Kennedy briefly met the revered emperor to hand him a letter from US President Barack Obama confirming her status, a common diplomatic gesture by top envoys.

"I just was honoured to present my credentials to his majesty and I`m eager to begin my work as ambassador," she told reporters after the meeting.

"It`s a wonderful ceremony and I`m honoured to represent my country."

Kennedy`s appointment, which comes days before the 50th anniversary on November 22nd of her father`s assassination in Dallas, has drawn significant media attention in Japan, with several national broadcasters providing live coverage of the procession.

"I`m very excited to have seen her because I was a big fan of her mother Jacqueline-san," said Shizuko Harada, 68, who was among the thousands of onlookers.

New ambassadors to Japan are offered the choice of the elaborate carriage ride along a 1.8 kilometre (1.1 mile) route from near the central Tokyo station, or a car ride from their residence.

Most choose the carriage ride.

Kennedy arrived in Tokyo on Friday and told reporters she was hoping to bolster Washington`s alliance with Tokyo.

"It is a special honour for me to be able to work to strengthen the close ties between our two great countries," Kennedy said upon her arrival.

"Our alliance is critical to a prosperous and peaceful world," she added in a brief speech, accompanied by her husband, Edwin Schlossberg.

Kennedy is the first female US ambassador to the Asian giant, which consistently ranks lower than other wealthy nations on women`s empowerment in politics and business.

Her appointment has been hailed in Japan, although some critics have voiced concern at having a diplomatic novice in the important post at a time of high tensions between Japan and a rising China.

Kennedy has largely shunned the limelight, although she has publicly championed her family`s brand of progressive politics.

She played a pivotal role in the Democratic Party`s primary in 2008, where she was an early and vocal backer of Obama against perceived front-runner Hillary Clinton.