Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko will visit the Philippines from Jan. 26 to 30 to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the normalization of relations, it was announced Friday.
It will be the first official visit by a Japanese Emperor to the nation, where around 1.1 million Filipinos and other residents died during World War II. In addition, about 518,000 Japanese soldiers and civilians died, according to the Japanese government.
The Imperial couple are expected to pay tribute at a monument to Japanese war dead erected by the Japanese government, and to visit a cemetery where Filipinos and other nationalities are buried.
The visit was approved by the Cabinet on Friday.
“I am convinced that their visit will help deepen the two countries’ close friendship and goodwill,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said in a statement.
Philippine President Benigno Aquino invited the Imperial couple to visit when they met in June in Tokyo. During a banquet for Aquino at the Imperial Palace, the Emperor said the Japanese people should reflect with deep remorse on the fact that a large number of Filipinos died during the war.
The Emperor and Empress have previously traveled to other major battlefields, visiting Saipan in 2005 and Palau earlier this year to mark the 60th and 70th anniversaries of the end of war.
Details of their Philippine itinerary will be decided in early January, the Imperial Household Agency said, but some engagements are already known.
The Imperial couple are expected to depart from Tokyo’s Haneda airport aboard a government plane on Jan. 26 and to stay on Luzon, the Philippines’ largest island. They will enjoy the status of state guests, with events including a ceremony at the Malacanang Palace, a meeting with Aquino and a banquet.
The itinerary may include meetings with Japanese expatriates and Japanese-Filipinos, an agency official said.
The official said the visits by the Emperor and Empress to the war dead monument and cemetery reflects their strong wish to mourn the loss of life.
Since it takes several hours by road to reach those locations from Manila, planners have considered using a helicopter of the Philippine military or the Japan Coast Guard, a government source said.
Source and image: Japan Times