Soccer diplomacy?

Princess becomes 1st Japanese royal in more than 100 years to visit Russia — and she witnesses history

Japan hadn’t sent a member of its imperial royal family to Russia since 1916 — until this week. Princess Takamado arrived in the city of Saransk on Tuesday for the World Cup and appeared at Mordovia Arena where watched the Japanese team defeat Colombia 2-1According to The Associated Press, Japan’s victory is the first ever by a team from Asia over a team from South America during World Cup play. At points, she could be seen commemorating the special occasion by snapping photos with her smartphone.

Japan and Russia have been at odds for decades over a group of islands in the Pacific located north of Japan. The Soviet Union seized the islands at the end of World War II, and Japan has disputed its taking of the territory ever since. The dispute over the islands is so bitter, in fact, that the two countries have never actually signed the treaty ending hostilities between them after the Second World War ended.

Complicating matters, according to Reuters, is Moscow’s recent decision to send fighter jets to the disputed islands and the rollout of a U.S. missile system.

The princess is expected to remain in Russia for at least another week and will watch Japan’s next World Cup game, but at this time it appears any hopes of soccer diplomacy between the two nations will not materialize as no official meetings with anyone from the Russian government are reportedly on her schedule. Prior to heading to Mordovia Arena, Princess Takamado took in some art at the Mordovian Erzia Museum of Visual Arts and paid a visit to a local history museum.

Lyudmila Narbekova, the director of the art museum, said diplomacy was on the princess’ mind. Narbekova told the Russian news agency TASS, “We spoke about the need to develop cultural ties between our countries. We are ready to consider any exhibition project: either to host [the works] of a Japanese painter here, or send the collections in which they are interested in to Japan,” Narbekova said. She added that Japan’s ambassador to Russia was also a part of the discussion. Princess Takamado is the widow of a cousin to Emperor Akihito

Read the full story at The Associated Press.

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