Crown Prince Naruhito on Monday left for Johannesburg aboard a government aircraft to attend a memorial service for former South African President Nelson Mandela on Tuesday.
The crown prince will be among nearly 70 heads of state and dignitaries attending either Tuesday's memorial service or a state funeral next Sunday for Mandela who died on Dec 5 at the age of 95.
It will be the first time for a member of Japan's imperial family to attend the funeral of a non-royal person overseas, according to Japanese media. The crown prince met Mandela when he made a state visit to Japan in 1995.
Former Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda will represent the government, Fuji TV reported. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida are unlikely to attend the funeral as they will be hosting a three-day Japan-ASEAN leaders' summit on Tokyo from Dec 13.
After the national memorial at a Johannesburg stadium on Tuesday, Mandela's body will lie in state at the Union Buildings, the seat of government in Pretoria, from Wednesday to Friday, followed by his funeral and burial in Qunu next Sunday.
Among those who have already indicated that they will be coming to South Africa are U.S. President Barack Obama and his two predecessors, George W Bush and Bill Clinton.
United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon will also travel to Johannesburg for the memorial service.
Other leaders and dignitaries who have confirmed that they are coming include French President Francois Hollande, Brazilian President Dilma Rouseff, Cyprus' Parliamentary Speaker, Yiannakis Omirou, Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt, Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark, Haitian Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe, Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg, Crown Prince Haakon of Norway and Britain's Prince Charles.
King Willem-Alexander and Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans will attend on behalf of the Netherlands.© Japan Today