TOKYO >> Britain’s Prince William had afternoon tea on his first visit to Japan on Thursday, but it was green and served by a master in the Japanese ceremonial art in a traditional tea house.
William began his four-day stay with the tea ceremony, an almost sacred dance-like ritual, at Hama Rikyu Gardens in Tokyo. Tea is made from a bitter powder, hand-stirred into a foam with a tiny whisk of wood, preferably gulped down in about three takes.
"I don’t want to drop it," William joked to reporters, while cupping with both hands an antique bowl with the tea.
His wife Kate, pregnant with the royal couple’s second child expected in April, stayed home.
The Edo-era style garden, which once belonged to a feudal shogun, where the ceremony took place is filled with sculpted pine trees and blossoming plum trees. Wooden bridges run over several lakes, where water birds float. Gardeners have been hard at work for days, clipping the trees and setting up lights, preparing for the visit.
After landing at Haneda airport, William boarded a boat with Tokyo Gov. Yoichi Masuzoe, waving and smiling to cameras waiting on a separate boat, and then zipped across the site of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. He was welcomed at the garden by schoolchildren waving British and Japanese flags.
Among the other highlights of William’s trip, through Sunday, when he travels to China, is a visit to a school in the northeastern region of Fukushima, where some areas have been closed off around a nuclear power plant that went into multiple meltdowns four years ago.
William, 32, will also visit other areas devastated by the March 2011 tsunami to show support for the survivors and pay respect to those who died, according to the British Embassy in Tokyo.
The tsunami and the quake that set it off killed about 19,000 people and displaced tens of thousands, including those whose homes are intact but contaminated by the radiation spewed from the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant.
Japan and Britain have enjoyed friendly relations for decades, and the Japanese public is generally enamored of British royalty, having followed William since a child.
His mother Diana was so popular with the public in Japan that it set off a frenzy called "Diana fever."
When Diana visited Japan in 1986, 1990 and in 1995, William’s father Prince Charles was almost an afterthought.
Japanese media reporting on William’s trip kept referring to him as "Diana’s first-born son," apparently the most important fact about him, rather than being second in line to the throne after his father. Diana died in a car crash in 1997, about a year after her divorce.
During his visit, William will attend various dinners, including one at a "ryokan," or traditional inn, where he will take a hot spring bath and dine with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, wearing a kimono-style "yukata," according to the communications office for the royal family.
He will also visit a TV broadcaster and meet actors in a hit show dressed up as samurai and geisha, and go to a bookstore where Aston Martin cars will be on display, it said.
While in Tokyo, William will have lunch with Emperor Akihito and then tea, presumably black tea, with Crown Prince Naruhito at the Imperial Palace.