HANOI – Emperor Akihito, who is on a state visit to Vietnam with Empress Michiko, said Wednesday in Hanoi he hopes the couple’s trip will help deepen understanding and reinforce ties between Japan and the Southeast Asian nation.
The Emperor said in his speech at a banquet sponsored by President Tran Dai Quang, “It is my sincere hope that our visit will contribute to further deepening our mutual understanding and strengthening the ties of friendly relations between the people of Vietnam and the people of Japan.”
The Emperor and Empress arrived Tuesday on their first trip to Vietnam where they hope to promote goodwill.
Looking back on a long history of exchanges between the two countries dating back to the eighth century, the Emperor said the ties have been even stronger since 1973 when they established diplomatic relations. He also noted that about 180,000 Vietnamese citizens reside in Japan, including students and technical interns.
The Emperor said he is “very happy” because people of the two nations are enjoying each other’s culture, including music and food, via events held throughout both countries.
The Imperial Couple were welcomed Wedneday by Quang in a ceremony at the presidential palace where the Emperor conveyed his gratitude for the invitation during their 20-minute meeting, according to the Imperial Household Agency.
Earlier, the couple visited Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum to offer flowers in memory of the nation’s founder and met with Vietnam’s National Assembly Chair Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan at the hotel where they are staying.
The Imperial Couple’s trip is also aimed at soothing wounds left over from World War II and its aftermath through exchanges with Vietnamese wives of former Japanese soldiers who once fought in that country’s civil war.
The Emperor and Empress are scheduled to meet with some of the women on Thursday, the agency said.
Of the Japanese troops deployed to French Indochina during World War II, an estimated 600 remained in what is now Vietnam after Japan’s surrender in August 1945, joining the then-Vietnamese revolutionary leader Ho Chi Minh’s independence movement.
They trained Viet Minh military forces and fought against France’s attempted recolonization of the country in the First Indochina War between 1946 and 1954. Half of the former Japanese soldiers are believed to have been killed during the war or died of illness.
Many of the Japanese soldiers married local women and had children. After the end of the First Indochina War, they returned home without being allowed to bring their Vietnamese families.
For the 83-year-old Emperor, it is his 20th overseas trip since he ascended the throne in January 1989. Vietnam is the 36th country he has visited during his reign.
The Emperor traveles overseas to promote international friendship.
Reflecting his hope for peace, the Emperor along with the Empress has also traveled to former World War II battlefields — such as Saipan in 2005, Palau in 2015 and the Philippines in 2016 — to mourn those who died in the war.