Emperor, Empress of Japan visit BC marine institute

SIDNEY, B.C. — Emperor Akihito of Japan thrilled Canadian marine scientists Sunday as he quizzed them with ocean-related questions during a visit to the Institute of Ocean Sciences near Victoria.

Japanese Emperor Akihito

SIDNEY, B.C. — Emperor Akihito of Japan thrilled Canadian marine scientists Sunday as he quizzed them with ocean-related questions during a visit to the Institute of Ocean Sciences near Victoria.

The royal couple then crossed to Vancouver to visit the city’s historic Japanese Language School, symbol both of a dark chapter in the Japanese-Canadian community’s history and one of renewal.

The Emperor and Empress Michiko were given a briefing on the Canadian-led Neptune Canada project, the world’s largest under sea observatory.

Neptune Canada senior scientist Rick Thompson was part of a group of scientists connected to the Neptune project that escorted the Emperor and Empress on a 30-minute tour of the ocean sciences institute.

“It’s not often we get somebody of this stature coming around asking questions about science. It’s wonderful,” said Thompson.

The Emperor asked a question about ocean nutrients after Thompson described the area off Vancouver Island near Port Alberni where the Neptune project will be installed as teaming with sea life.

“He asked me about productivity in the Atlantic and Pacific (oceans),” said Thompson. “That’s a pretty broad question to answer, but it was a good one.”

Thompson described the Emperor and Empress as a very nice couple, very sympathetic, who made people feel comfortable in their presence.

“They were obviously very interested in the science, which I tell you is a really wonderful feeling.”

Japanese science and technology are part of the $100-million project, which will provide real-time, 24-hour Internet access to an 800-kilometre undersea section ocean life off Vancouver Island.

The Emperor, who has written books and research papers on marine-related topics, examined Japanese-designed equipment that will be part of the undersea Neptune laboratory.

More than 500 people cheered and waved Japanese flags as the royal couple pulled up to the Japanese Language School on the fringe of Vancouver’s troubled Downtown Eastside.

The school, founded in 1906, was once the heart of a thriving Japantown near Vancouver’s waterfront.

But after Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbour in December 1941, the Canadian government interned all Japanese-Canadians, whether immigrant or born here, in camps away from the coast.

The school was confiscated by the government and used by the military. Part of the property was later sold without compensation to the government’s costs.

“When I came back in ’49, the Army and Navy (department store) had a warehouse here,” said honorary school chairman Cy Saimoto, who spent the war interned near the town of Gold Bridge, B.C.

Saimoto, 81, escorted the Emperor and Empress through a historical exhibit.

“I explained all the pictures inside, what happened,” said Saimoto, who first met the Emperor in 1953 when Crown Prince Akihito toured Canada as a student.

The school was revived after the war and celebrated its centennial in 2006. A sidewalk mosaic commemorating the internment lies a few steps from where the Emperor greeted a knot of young students.

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson explained how the neighbourhood is undergoing renewal, and Saimoto said he hoped the recognition would spark a revival of its Japanese roots.

Japanese royal couple is on a 12-day visit to Canada, which ends Tuesday.

The Emperor and Empress arrived in Ottawa on July 3 and will leave Canada from Vancouver.

The visit celebrates the 80th anniversary of Canada’s first diplomatic mission in Japan.

The 75-year-old Emperor first visited Victoria 56 years ago in 1953 as the Japanese crown prince. He stayed at Victoria’s Government House, which he visited again Saturday, while on his way to attend the coronation of Queen Elizabeth.

Just Posted

Red Deer group looking to keep roads safe for cyclists

A Red Deer cycling group is concerned about road safety after multiple… Continue reading

Smoke and pets do not mix

Take care of your pets during the smoky weather

Former Red Deer lawyer sentenced

Charges included possession of stolen property

Man causes mischief with axe in Ponoka

Arson and attempted break and enter charges laid

WATCH: Raising money for kids at the Gord Bamford Charity Golf Classic

Former NHL players, Olympians, pro rodeo circuit members and musicians teed off… Continue reading

Oilpatch fears delays as U.S. judge orders further review of KXL pipeline route

CALGARY — Potential delays in the completion of the Keystone XL pipeline… Continue reading

‘Queen of Soul’ Aretha Franklin dies at 76

NEW YORK — Aretha Franklin, the undisputed “Queen of Soul” who sang… Continue reading

Arrests in Burnaby, B.C., as order against Kinder Morgan protest camp enforced

BURNABY, B.C. — The RCMP arrested protesters Thursday as officers enforced a… Continue reading

‘Hot and dirty work:’ Commander describes fighting massive Ontario wildfire

BRITT, Ont. — From a helicopter flying over a smouldering swath of… Continue reading

Calgary Fire Department logs record opioid overdose calls in July

CALGARY — The Calgary Fire Department says there were a record number… Continue reading

RCMP in Burnaby, B.C., say Kinder Morgan protest camp to be dismantled

BURNABY, B.C. — The RCMP arrested protesters when officers enforced a court… Continue reading

Study: Smokers better off quitting, even with weight gain

NEW YORK — If you quit smoking and gain weight, it may… Continue reading

Most Read


Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month