BackHeritage » Asia » Japanese Emperor, Empress to Meet With Vietnamese Families of WWII Japanese Soldiers

Japanese Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko will visit Vietnam this week, meeting with the Vietnamese wives and children of Japanese soldiers stationed in the country during World War II.

According to the Japan Times, the visit by the imperial couple begins tomorrow and will include a week of international travel, not only to Vietnam but also to Thailand, where they will pay their respects to the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

But before the 83-year-old emperor and his wife make their way to Bangkok, the pair will continue their ongoing work to heal the wounds of war. In Vietnam, the Japanese occupation during the 1940s and its aftermath will be the focus of their trip.

Japan’s five-year occupation of Vietnam was relatively brief compared to the French presence in the country. When, in 1945, the roughly 100,000 Japanese soldiers stationed in Indochina withdrew from the region after WWII, Channel News Asia reports, a handful of Japanese men stayed behind to join forces with Ho Chi Minh’s Viet Minh. Approximately 600 Japanese soldiers provided military expertise and training to their Vietnamese comrades, supporting the Viet Minh’s fight against French colonialism. During the First Indochina War, about half of these men died due to disease and combat, the news outlet reports. However, when the French were finally defeated in 1954, the Vietnamese government chose to send the Japanese soldiers home.

The first wave of Japanese soldiers sent back to Japan included Nguyen Van Duc, the husband of Nguyen Thi Xuan, now 94, according the news source. By that time the couple had married and were expecting their third child, the Washington Post reports.

Though a later group of Japanese soldiers were permitted to bring their families along, Vietnamese authorities did not allow Duc to bring his family with him, leaving Xuan and her children behind. In the following years, the family endured poverty and hardship, with Xuan often ridiculed for her marriage to a Japanese man.

After 1975, however, Vietnam-Japan relations improved quickly. Today, the island nation is Vietnam’s largest aid donor and among its top investors in the private sector.

In addition to their meeting with these wives and children, the Japan Times reports Emperor Akihito and his wife will also dine with Vietnamese President Tran Dai Quang before visiting Hue to meet with Japanese Overseas Cooperation Volunteers.

[Photo via Reuters]

Related Articles:

[Video] Highlighting Vietnam's Forgotten Moroccan Soldiers

When the Japanese Occupied Vietnam: Part 1

[Video] This Is What Saigon Looked Like in 1945

Related Articles

in Asia

South Koreans Apologize for Country's Role in American War

Last week, the Korean-Vietnamese Peace Foundation sent a statue known as Vietnam Pieta – The Last Lullaby to the Da Nang Museum as an apology for South Korea’s involvement in the American War.&nb...

in Asia

[Photos] 21 Rare Old Photos of Kuala Lumpur Through the Decades

If you’ve enjoyed our collections of old Saigon photos so far, this set of rare images of Kuala Lumpur taken throughout the 20th century might pique your interest.

in Asia

[Photos] A Glimpse Into 1950s Cambodia and Laos

Over the past month or so, we’ve come to love the stunning 1950s photography of Frenchman Raymond Cauchetier.

in Asia

[Photos] A Guide to Traveling 1910 French Indochina

In the days before every backpacker wandered the streets of Saigon with a guidebook in hand, one turn-of-the-century French travel firm advertised Indochina as an adventure destination for European tr...

in Asia

[Photos] An Eerie Tokyo in the 1970s by Canadian Photographer Greg Girard

Born in 1955, Greg Girard is well-known for his photography work in some of Asia's largest cities.

in Asia

[Photos] Check out Indochina's Colorful 19th-Century Bank Notes

If you ever get bored of looking at the same set of images on Vietnam’s current bank notes, this set of old Indochinese bills will provide a glimpse into what the region's denizens used to spend when ...