Besides a courtesy call and a Tuesday lunch with the Spanish Royal Family, Japan’s Crown Prince Naruhito, together with Spain’s Crown Prince Felipe and Crown Princess Letizia, presided over the Inaugural Gala of the Spain-Japan Dual Year at the Palacio Real de Madrid. The 53-year old prince had also inaugurated two exhibits. Despite an expected week-long visit to Spain marking the two kingdoms’ 400 years of relationship, Naruhito still took time from his busy schedule to meet with prominent Japanese in the country.
Etsuro Sotoo, Chief Sculptor of the World Heritage-listed Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, met with the crown prince during a gathering held at the residence of Satoru Satoh, Japan’s Ambassador to Spain, on Monday. When inquired by the prince about the status of a century-old project, the 59-year old sculptor did not shy away from inviting Prince Naruhito for a sudden inspection. “Since I am doing my best, I would be glad if you could come over,” Sotoo told the prince.
Naruhito also met Mitsue Iwakura, a 28-year old midfielder of Atletico Madrid’s women’s soccer team, which is part of Spain’s Primera Division. On Thursday, the crown prince will be in Coria del Rio, where the bronze statue of Hasekura Tsunenaga stands. Tsunenaga led a seven-year diplomatic mission to Europe. He left Japan in 1613 and arrived in Spain the following year. Even when he returned to Japan in 1620, some believe that there were Japanese who stayed in Spain. Those who did used “Japon” as their last name to keep and be reminded of their Japanese ancestry.
During the opening of Spain-Japan dual year, some Japanese artists also performed including Flamenco Singer Shoji Kojima and Mine Kawakami, playing the official tune of the dual year, which was inspired by the trip of Tsunenaga.