Princess Alexandra of Luxembourg fills in for her mother on first royal visit to Japan

Princess Alexandra of Luxembourg stepped into the royal spotlight this week as she joined Grand Duke Henri, on a three-day official state visit to Japan. According to press reports, the 26-year-old filled the role alongside her father since her mother Grand Duchess Maria Teresa has a profound fear of flying and thus was unable to make the trip. Princess Alexandra, the only girl of five siblings, took on the responsibility with aplomb as she attended engagements from meeting Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko, both 83, to mingling with the Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe and other dignitaries at a state dinner in the European royal guests' honor.

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A poised Princess Alexandra sits alongside her father Grand Duke Henri during a chat with Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko Photo: © SIP / Charles Caratini

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On November 28, accompanied by the Emperor and Empress, Grand Duke Henri and his daughter traveled by train to Tsuchiura, about 45 miles away from Tokyo, where they were honored at a welcoming ceremony at the town hall. The visit included a visit to the JAXA Tsukuba Space Center as well as a meeting between Grand Duke Henri and the Prime Minister along with other government officials. At the Global Perspectives on Green and Responsible Finance meeting attended by Princess Alexandra, her mother Grand Duchess Maria Teresa was present – virtually, that is – when she gave the opening remarks via video.

The princess and Empress Michiko at a concert held at Akasaka Palace Photo: © SIP / Charles Caratini

During the trip, the royals also took part in a Space Conference at the Tokyo Skytree Town – an ultra-modern shopping and entertainment center with 300 shops and restaurants, an aquarium, planetarium and museum – in the Sumida District of Tokyo, and a concert at the century-old Akasaka Palace, a royal palace that is now a guest home for visiting dignitaries. The performance was the last engagement on the royal father-daughter pair's agenda before they returned to Luxembourg.

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Princess Alexandra and her father were also greeted by Crown Prince Naruhito – who will ascend the Japanese throne in 2019 after his father's abdication – and his wife Crown Princess Masako Photo: © SIP / Charles Caratini

Coincidentally, the visit came to an end just before it was announced that Emperor Akihito will abdicate the Chrysanthemum throne in 2019. There had recently been much speculation that the octogenarian would step down from his role. Last year, in a rare public address – only the third time an Emperor of Japan has done so since 1945 – Emperor Akihito spoke directly to the people to express his growing concerns, stating: "When I consider that my fitness level is gradually declining, I am worried that it may become difficult for me to carry out my duties as the symbol of the State with my whole being as I have done until now." The definitive confirmation, however, did not come from the government until December 1.Crown Prince Naruhito now plans to ascend the throne on May 1, 2019, when his father will become the first Japanese emperor to abdicate in 200 years.

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