The Japanese empress, who was recently forced to cancel official engagements due to ill health, seemed very much back on form as she accompanied her husband and son to the Expo opening. The Crown Prince's wife was once again notable by her absence, however
Photo: AFP
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Emperor Akihito, Empress Michiko and Crown Prince Naruhito check out one of the mammoth exhibits
Photo: AFP

24 MARCH 2005

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It was a family outing for the Japanese royals on Wednesday when they attended the opening of the 21st century's first World Exposition in the country's industrial heartland.

Empress Michiko who has been recently indisposed - accompanied her husband Emperor Akihito to the event. However, although Crown Prince Naruhito joined his parents, his wife, Princess Masako, who has been suffering a stress related illness for over a year, was once again absent.

At the opening, the imperial guests were treated to a concert performed by both human and robotic musicians. Indeed, robots play a key role at the Expo, acting in roles as diverse as intelligent road sweepers to security guards programmed to detect intruders.

Easily the star attraction, however, is the uncannily human Actroid. Resembling a 20-something woman, the robot acts as an information service, answering questions in four languages - Japanese, English, Korean and Chinese.

The imperial family also introduced to a much older participant, an 18,000-year-old mammoth, the frozen remains of which were discovered in Siberia, and which is billed as the most successful attempt yet to excavate and display almost the full animal.

The Nagakute World Expo, which traces its roots to the 1851 Great Exhibition in London and features displays by 121 countries showing the link between technology and the environment, will run for six-months and is expected to draw 15 million visitors.

akihito, masako, naruhito, michiko, world expo

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