The queen of England recently concluded a visit to the Irish Republic--the first by a sitting British monarch. Though she lacks executive powers, her travels are an important asset in the toolbox of British diplomacy. This momentous royal trip should persuade the Japanese government to accept South Korea's invitation to allow the emperor to pay a visit.
Elizabeth II's arrival on Irish soil is the most important foreign journey of a 59-year reign that has included more than 100 trips abroad. For decades, England's colonization of Ireland, the repression of the Irish independence movement, and the division of Ireland made it impossible for a British sovereign to travel there.
The queen's trip was such a huge success that it will likely stand as one of the most important of her reign. Most importantly, she paid homage to those killed by British colonial forces. The Irish public was so impressed that she received a standing ovation at her final public event.
Why was such a state visit so productive despite a long history of Anglo-Irish antagonism? Two of the reasons are relevant for Japan. By having the queen bow her head in front of the memorials to Irish victims of British rule, the United Kingdom acknowledged the wrongs of the past.