On October 4, 1960, Seattle welcomes Crown Prince Akihito and Crown Princess Michiko of Japan, during their tour of the United States to commemorate the centennial of the first trade and friendship treaty between the two countries.
Governor Albert Rosellini (1910-2011) greeted their Imperial Highnesses at Sea-Tac airport, after which the royal couple was driven to the Olympic Hotel. Thousands lined the streets and a red carpet was laid on University Street for their arrival at University Plaza. A 45-minute welcoming ceremony was held, during which time Akihito and Michiko sat in gold-colored thrones decorated with dolphins. Among the speakers were Senator Warren Magnuson (1905-1989) and Representative Thomas Pelly (1902-1973).
That evening, 837 guests attended a royal banquet in the hotel's Grand Ballroom. The head table alone had seats for 47 persons of honor. All tables were covered with pink cloths, offset by vases filled with red carnations. Attendees dined on roast filet mignon. Prince Akihito stated that he and his wife were very happy that Seattle was included in their itinerary.
A Day with the Royals
The next morning, head maitre d' hotel Norman Lavin was surprised when the Imperial couple ordered eggs, hotcakes, and waffles for breakfast, but then realized that this was akin to Americans ordering pasta while visiting Italy. Before the day's planned events, Akihito made an unscheduled shopping trip to Frederick & Nelson, where he bought some books about fisheries.
After checking out of the hotel, the couple traveled to the tea garden at the University of Washington Arboretum. In a formal ceremony, they planted a cherry tree to symbolize Japan and a white birch, a symbol of the Princess's family. The Princess left to visit the Seattle Art Museum in Volunteer Park, while the Prince boarded a Coast Guard patrol boat at the foot of Madison, which took him to Renton's Boeing plant.
Everywhere they went, heads turned to catch a glimpse of the handsome prince and his lovely bride. Only as they flew out of Sea-Tac Airport did they break protocol, waving energetically from the airplane window, obviously pleased with their stay.
In 1989, Prince Akihito became Emperor of Japan following the death of his father Hirohito.