Japan Emperor Akihito pays respects to late Thai King Bhumibol in Bangkok

Japan emperor Akihito and his wife Michiko also signed a condolence book for the late King.

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Japan's Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko Reuters

Japanese emperor Akihito and his wife Michiko paid their respects to the late Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej at the Grand Palace in Bangkok on Sunday. Japan and Thailand share a cordial diplomatic relationship for more than 130 years. The royal couple also signed a condolence book for the late King. The visit is part of the last leg of the emperor's week-long trip to Thailand and Vietnam.

After visiting Vietnam, the 125th emperor of Japan reached Bangkok to meet the imperial family. Dressed in black, the royal couple laid flowers on the altar of the late King, who was laid to rest last October. Emperor Akihito is also scheduled to meet HM King Maha Vajiralongkorn this week.

Hatsuhisa Takashima, the press secretary to Emperor Akihito, told BangkokPost, "The Japanese royal couple decided to visit Thailand after a six-day visit to Vietnam because it was their last occasion to meet with the late king and bid farewell to him".

According to a report on The Nation, "Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko visited Thailand for the first time in December 1964 when they then were Crown Prince and Crown Princess, following a visit made by King Bhumibol to Japan in 1963. The Imperial couple visited Thailand in 1991 for their first foreign visit after their enthronement. They visited the Kingdom again in 2006 to attend the 60th anniversary of King Bhumibol's accession to the throne."

During their visit to Vietnam, the royal couple met the Vietnamese families of soldiers who fought during the World War II. The Reuters reported, "Some 16 descendants of marriages between Vietnamese women and Japanese soldiers met Emperor Akihito, 83, and Empress Michiko, 82, including 94-year-old widow Nguyen Thi Xuan. Most of the family members were in their 60s."

After Japan's defeat in the Indochina war in 1945, though many soldiers returned back to their homeland, around 600 of them joined Vietnamese independence leader Ho Chi Minh's Viet Minh in fighting French colonial forces. Post the war, they went back to Japan but many were unable to take their families.

In Japan, the emperor is believed to be the descendant of Amaraterusu, the Sun God. And Japanese consider their Emperor next to God.

This article was first published on March 7, 2017