BANGKOK • Japanese Emperor Akihito and his wife, Empress Michiko, arrived in Thailand yesterday to pay homage to the late Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej and meet the new King Maha Vajiralongkorn.
Regarded as a goodwill trip to the kingdom, the visit marks the 130th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Thailand and Japan, and is aimed at strengthening traditional relations between the two royal families.
Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko yesterday were welcomed by Thai Royal Guards as they arrived to lay a wreath and sign a condolence book for King Bhumibol at the Grand Palace in Bangkok. King Bhumibol died in October after a long illness.
The royal couple were also expected to meet with King Maha Vajiralongkorn, who took the throne in December.
Thailand and Japan have traditionally enjoyed strong ties and the Thai royals have for decades forged close relations with the Imperial Palace, beginning with King Bhumibol's visit to Japan as a state guest in May 1963.
Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko visited Thailand for the first time in December 1964 when they were then Crown Prince and Crown Princess.
The imperial couple visited Thailand in 1991 for their first foreign visit after their enthronement and visited the kingdom again in 2006 to attend the 60th anniversary of King Bhumibol's accession to the throne.
The imperial couple's visit to Thailand is part of a week-long tour to the Mekong region, which began with a landmark visit to Vietnam last Tuesday - his first to the South-east Asian nation.
The Vietnam leg saw Emperor Akihito spending time to soothe lingering wounds from Japan's imperial past as he met with Vietnamese families of former Japanese soldiers who remained after Japan's surrender in 1945.
Emperor Akihito had also undertaken similar efforts on a historic trip to the Philippines last year.
The imperial couple is due to leave Bangkok for Japan today.
THE NATION/ASIA NEWS NETWORK