Not many British people speak Japanese, so it may have been quite a surprise for the Emperor of Japan when the Lord Mayor of Westminster greeted him in his own language.

In a state visit by Japan's Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako, Westminster's Lord Mayor, Councillor Robert Rigby, greeted the Japanese royals with his "best Japanese".

The Lord Mayor, who has lived in St John’s Wood for 35 years, was there alongside His Majesty King Charles, Queen Camilla and a host of other VIPs to welcome the Japanese Royals to Horse Guards Parade.

Cllr Rigby's wife Emiko is Japanese, and the Lord Mayor put his Japanese to the ultimate test with the visiting dignitaries.

He said: "As a long-time visitor to Japan and married to a wife raised in Tokyo, the visit of the Emperor and Empress has had such special status for Emiko and me.

The Lord Mayor was elected in May (Image: Westminster City Council)

"When I had the honour of shaking hands with the Emperor at Horse Guards Parade, I tried my best Japanese on him and told him about the Lady Mayoress as well as how great it was to see the Japanese royal couple in the City of Westminster.

"My language effort seemed to entertain King Charles and I hope it translated well for the Emperor!"

During their visit, the Japanese Royals made their way down the Mall under sunny skies.

The Lord Mayor joined the Royals again at Westminster Abbey, and later represented the City of Westminster alongside the Lady Mayoress at a Buckingham Palace banquet.

The Lord Mayor added: "The state banquet at Buckingham Palace was an astonishing event – Emiko and I had the chance to once again meet both the Emperor and Empress as well as the King and Queen."

Lady Mayoress Emiko Rigby said: "I am conscious of how special it is to be the first Japanese Lady Mayoress of Westminster, so meeting Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako was an absolute honour.

"Their love of all things British and their interest in the UK is clear.

"The Japanese royal couple saw Westminster at its best and I think our residents can be proud of that."