Japanese royal trip winds down

THE 16-day US tour of Japan's visiting emperor and empress is drawing to a close, with only minor glitches and much sightseeing..

In New York City on Wednesday night, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani apologized to Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko for the hazy heat that obscured the royal couple's view of the city. The emperor responded, ``I look forward to seeing the skyline.''

Earlier Wednesday, the emperor and empress visited the Virginia mountaintop home of Thomas Jefferson. The royal couple visited Atlanta and Charleston, S.C., last weekend, and this weekend they will stop by a ranch in Colorado and see a baseball game in St. Louis.

At a state dinner in the White House, held Monday night, President Clinton told the royal visitors that ``today the ties that bind our two nations have never been stronger.''

Akihito replied that he and the empress would ``think deeply about the course that our two countries have followed in the past'' during their visit.

``I sincerely hope that this visit will, even in a small way, help our two peoples recognize anew the bonds forged by our forefathers between our two countries and consolidate these bonds further,'' he said.

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