Cherry Blossoms and Olive Trees

As Akita Kitsuno settled in as Sosai, things started to heat up in the European region. She sighed as she read the news reports of France mobilizing to invade Algeria. This was worrisome as it was clear that the French ambitions would eventually lead it back into Asia. To prepare for this it was necessary for Nihon to start finding friends on the international stage, and the best potential lay in Athens. With that decided a message was sent to the Athenian embassy in Edo, and to the Athenian government, requesting a high level meeting between the Athenian government and the government of Nihon.

With multiple alliances established in Europe and Athenian plans for the Middle East and North Africa well on their way, Athens could now begin looking outwards to the rest of the world. Especially now that it had a military to project power all over the world as well. Japan had quickly risen as a likely candidate for diplomatic outreach. The government seemed generally compatible to the Athenian approach to matters and there were no obvious areas where Athenian and Japanese interests could conflict on first appearances. As such when the Japanese contacted the Athenian embassy, and the message was forwarded to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs they were quick to take it up the chain. While the plan had initially been to send the Magistrate of Foreign Affairs, after hearing of the invitation the Empress instead instructed the Ministry to prepare her own trip to Edo.

With that in mind the embassy would be given a message to forward to the Japanese government accepting their invitation, and instructing them to coordinate with Japanese authorities to make all preparations for the Empress’ visit to Japan. Special concern would be placed on securing permission for the Imperial Guard to provide personal security and other logistical arrangements.

While having originally expecting a lower level official to visit, Nihon began preparations to receive the Empress of Athens. Negotiations for the Imperial Guard would be relatively simple. So long as they did not wish to bring heavy equipment into the nation, they would be given the same amount of leeway as the Daimyos when they brought their own guards. At the same time Edo Castle, having recently undergone renovations, would be prepared to receive the Empress as its first guest in centuries. While the castle itself was primarily used as a museum, it was a simple matter to prepare it to serve as a residence.

Once the plans were made and communicated between the Embassy and governments a date would be set and the Nihon Armed Forces would prepare to receive the Empress alongside the Sosai. On the side of Nihon, the Republican Navy would provide escort to the Empress as she arrived and she would be greeted by the Sosai and a contingent of Republican Marines. From there they would head to Edo Castle to give the Empress the tour. All they had to do now was wait for the arrival of the Athenians.

With everything arranged, the first Imperial visit to Asia could commence. Opting to truly travel in style, instead of picking the “regular” Airbus A380 the Empress would fly in the mach 16 capable Olympic SP150. Travelling with her would be about 20 of the most elite Imperial Guard as well as a small army of aides, attaches from various military branches and Athenian press that had come along to report on the momentous occassion.

After landing the Empress would take in the grand welcome and thank her hosts for their warm and welcome reception as she was further escorted to the Sosai.

“Your Excellency, thank you for your warm welcome. It is a pleasure to be here” Athanasia would state as she approached her Japanese counterpart.

“I welcome your Majesty to Nihon,” Kitsuno would say, giving a small bow. The press snapped pictures as they greeted each other, this was a monumental occassion as the first visit of a Monarch to Nihon since the exile of the Imperial family. “I hope your trip here was pleasant. If you would follow me, we shall head to Edo Castle to begin your stay.”

There was a motorcade waiting, sporting the flags of both Athens and Nihon. It would take them through the city, flanked by police and Marines. Kitsuno would sit back in the seat as the limo headed towards the castle. She looked out the window, taking in some of the sights briefly before turning to her counterpart. “I would like to congradulate your majesty on your victory in the Middle East. It is tragic that your hand was forced as it was, but at least it ended. Now if I may ask, what brings your Majesty to personally visit our Republic?”

“Certainly it was, albeit short owing to the choice of aircraft. As impressed as I am with these new space planes, there is a certain charm to the longer duration of conventional flight” Athanasia replied with a smile before she followed the Japanese to the motorcade and took her own seat in her designated vehicle. Her security details would go in the cars immediately behind her and the rest of her aides in the ones behind them. As the motorcade drove on she enjoyed to take in the sights. As much as Tokyo had seen a similar growth as Athens had and certainly one during the same timespan, the cultural differences still made it a completely different city. Athanasia had always appreciated Japanese culture and seeing it for real was something special.

“Thank you, Your Excellency. War is always the measure of last resort, unfortunately it is a measure I’ve had to use too often this past decade. Hopefully one day we can lay down our swords and truly focus only on the pen. As for why I came. Japan is our first major diplomatic outreach outside of Europe since the collapse of the Kingdom of Greece, I felt such a thing warranted only the highest representation. Plus I was hoping I might catch some cherry blossom trees while here”

“Well I am sure we could see if we can find time to schedule that in for you. It is one of the main attractions for tourists who visit.” Kitsuno would nod appreciatively. “We are certainly glad that you felt it worthwhile to visit. There has not been a monarch on our soil since we expelled the former Imperial House from our lands for good.”

The motorcade would rumble its way towards Edo Castle, crowds lining the streets to watch and cheer as it went by. “As you can see you are already quite popular here.” Kitsuno said, nodding at the bystanders. “I think they see you more as a celebrity than a monarch. I would not be surprised of some of them out there wished for your autograph.”

Athanasia smiled at the mention of her popularity. “I am pleased to hear, perhaps we can schedule some time to meet with the people too. Back in Athens being among my people is often one of the most rewarding experiences and ironically one of the most soothing ones. Even if I’m pretty sure it gives Alexia, the head of my Imperial Guard detail, a heart attack sometimes” She said as she looked on. “Would you mind if I opened a window to wave at them?”

“Please, be my guest.” Kitsuno would say in response. “I am sure the public and the press will adore it. They seem to enjoy sociable elites.” She would smirk at her own statement, knowing that she was anything but a sociable elite. “If you wish I could speak with some of the major programs and get you invited onto an interview program. And if you are interested I could arrange a get together with several of our local idols and voice actors.”

"That would be great, I have been kind fond of more than a few of the anime coming out of your country"Athanasia replied before opening the window to see the crowd directly and wave at them. The longer she did it the bigger the smile on her face became, she was truly in her element with big crowds.

Eventually the motorcade would make it safely to Edo Castle. The former imperial residence had been through a lot and was currently serving as a tourist attraction. However one of the many palaces had been closed to the public to serve as a guest house for the visiting Empress. As they exited the motorcade they would be greeted by the Republican Marines, who greeted the Empress and the Sosai.

“Edo Castle will serve as your residence for your time here in Edo. The Marines will work with your guards to provide the best security possible. Before we begin the politics of your visit I hope you will join me tonight for dinner at my estate here in Edo. My chefs are some of the best here in Nihon, and I would love to treat you on your first night here.”

Athanasia nodded in confirmation “I would love to join you for dinner, I am certain your chefs will leave me without complaints”

Kitsuno would express her final well wishes before leaving the Empress and her staff to get settled. That evening another motorcade would arrive and pick up the Empress, taking her to the Akita Estate. While Edo Castle showed the history of Nihon, the Akita Estate was an example of the future. A massive complex of skyscrapers, it served as the headquarters of the Akita Group and was a fortress in its own right. The Empress would be greeted by the staff and would be shown to the elevator that would rise to the top levels of the tallest of the skyscrapers, the suite of the Akita.

Kitsuno would greet the Empress upon her arrival. “Welcome to my estate your Majesty,” she said giving a small bow. “I am grateful you have decided to join me for dinner.” She motioned for the Empress to follow her through the suite. “I recently had the top floors renovated for being able to welcome esteemed guests. You are the first of those worthy of that title.” They would arrive in a multistory dining room with floor to ceiling windows showing a view of the modern city below. “I hope the view is pleasurable.”

Opting to forego the grand gowns so often chosen for public events and instead go for something more elegant yet youthful the stylists decided on a solid black base with a black and blue see-through layer over it for the Empress’ dress. As the motorcade arrived she had all but the most basis security escort stay back and entered the car designated to take her to her host’s own home. During the day she had taken the chance to explore the Castle a bit but frankly the flight had exhausted her so most time was spent resting. As the cars drove through the business districts of the city Athanasia could see what all her Intelligence Briefings had been about. Japan truly was a country that had said goodbye to its past. Though with its recent past that was a decision Athanasia could understand. There was an interesting contrast between the two countries. Japan had said goodbye to its past and fully reinvented itself to embark on humanity’s future, whereas the Athenian Federation had rejected the modernity imposed on it by other powers and returned to its historic roots albeit in a modernized sense to embark on this new future. Both approaches seemed to be working for their respective countries. It certainly was food for thought.

For now however Athanasia could focus on different food, the actual kind. As the car arrived Athanasia would step out backed by the two guards she had taken along and approach her host. “Thank you, your Excellency. The pleasure is all mine, and I am truly honoured to be the first of your guests in this part of your beautiful domain as well” She replied as she followed Kitsuno inside. Once she saw the view mentioned it was only her years in etiquette training that kept her from being awestruck. “Your home is beautiful, your Excellency. And I must thank you for sharing it with me. I cannot wait to return the favour in my own home sometime in the future”

“I look forward to that. I’ve seen many a news report from your state and it seems as though it is one that is very in touch with its past.” Kitsuno would smile, a rare face reserved for private. “And I would like to invite your majesty to drop formalities if you wish. This is a private dinner with no media presence, so please feel as though you can relax.”

They would be seated at the table in the dining room and servers would bring out food, quietly placing it in front of the two before leaving. Once the food was placed the head chef would come from the kitchen and bow deeply. “It is the greatest honor for you to try my dishes. Today I have prepared you the finest spread as requested by her Excellency. For your appetizer I have provided steamed buns, pan fried dumplings, and an assortment of sushi and sashimi, including her Excellency’s favorite of Fugu and Ahi Tuna. The main course will be a premium A5 Wagyu Steak and rice with assorted greens. We also have a selection of premium sakes, wines, and other alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages for your enjoyment.”