This spring, HRH Prince Michael of Kent visited Japan as an Ambassador of the historic British watchmaker Backes & Strauss. During his trip, Prince Michael had the pleasure of visiting Karuizawa — the first member of the British royal family to be received in this beautiful mountain resort town near Nagano. The town once hosted John Lennon and Yoko Ono and has long been a favoured destination of the Japanese royal family.
Prince Michael was the honoured guest of Yuki Hayashi, founder of the Osato Research Institute and a long-standing Aston Martin customer and enthusiast, with close ties to the Gaydon factory and the British classic car scene. After meeting Prince Michael at a UK Concours of Elegance event, an invitation to visit Japan was extended, sealed by the opportunity to drive examples of contemporary British luxury cars, including an Aston Martin DB11 Volante.
The Prince is renowned for his interest in and enthusiasm for cars, especially classics. An Honorary President of the RAC Motorsports Council and Patron of Brooklands Museum Trust, as well as the current President of the Royal Automobile Club, he has driven the iconic Mille Miglia rally on several occasions.
After a lunch in the town’s fabled Mampei Hotel — much loved by Ono and Lennon — Prince Michael took the wheel of the Aston Martin DB11 Volante and led a procession of contemporary British luxury cars to the Onioshidashi Volcanic Park, a dramatic landscape created from volcanic rocks from Mount Asama. After a four-hour driving tour, the party arrived back in town, where evening entertainment had been arranged by Mrs Toshiko Hayashi, with several prominent young opera singers performing a concert at the Prince Karuizawa Hotel. It was a moving occasion and the Prince later wrote to his hosts expressing his belief that Karuizawa and its surroundings would make an excellent location for a Japanese Concours of Elegance, thanks to its beautiful surroundings and welcoming community of enthusiasts.