Ja­pan em­peror ex­presses sym­pa­thy to fam­i­lies left by WW2 sol­diers

New Straits Times - - World - AP

HANOI: Ja­pan’s em­peror ex­pressed sym­pa­thy to the Viet­namese fam­i­lies aban­doned by Ja­panese sol­diers af­ter World War 2 dur­ing his land­mark visit to the Com­mu­nist coun­try.

Ak­i­hito and Em­press Michiko, in their first ever visit by a Ja­panese em­peror, met with a wife and 15 chil­dren of for­mer Ja­panese sol­diers here yes­ter­day. He told them that he un­der­stood their dif­fi­cul­ties and hoped bi­lat­eral re­la­tions would con­tinue to de­velop.

“I un­der­stand that the Ja­panese sol­diers who re­mained here ex­pe­ri­enced tough times and their fam­i­lies here also had nu­mer­ous dif­fi­cul­ties,” he said through a trans­la­tor.

“I feel that peace is pre­cious.” Some 600 to 800 Ja­panese sol­diers re­mained in Viet­nam af­ter Ja­pan’s sur­ren­der in 1945 and helped train Ho Chi Minh’s Viet Minh to fight French forces.

Nguyen Thi Xuan, 92, was the only one among the few sur­viv­ing wives who was healthy enough to meet with the im­pe­rial couple.

Xuan told the em­peror while weep­ing that she was “very moved” to meet them, and was grate­ful that they took time to take care of the fam­i­lies of the Ja­panese who were left be­hind.

Xuan told the em­peror that her Ja­panese hus­band spent nine years fight­ing the French with the Viet Minh, and when he left in 1954, she had to raise her four chil­dren, in­clud­ing one born af­ter he left.

“It was so hard for you,” the em­peror com­forted her.

Xuan and her hus­band only met for a re­u­nion 52 years later.

Cao Khanh Tuong was one of the 15 chil­dren of ex-Ja­panese sol­diers to meet with the im­pe­rial couple.

“I re­ally hope that the his­toric visit by the em­peror and em­press will help to con­nect us with our coun­try­men in Ja­pan for bet­ter un­der­stand­ing,” he said.

Tuong said fam­i­lies with Ja­panese blood used to be faced with dis­crim­i­na­tion.

“Our neigh­bours would not al­low their chil­dren to play with us, call­ing us sons of Ja­panese fas­cists. I was very sad,” he said.

Tuong’s fa­ther was forced to re­turn to Ja­pan in 1954, leav­ing be­hind his wife and four chil­dren. He was 5 years old then.

“He’s very nice and in­tel­li­gent, he speaks flu­ent Viet­namese,” Tuong said about his fa­ther, adding that the fam­ily re­ceived a let­ter and toys from him in 1956 and an­other let­ter in 1958. Then they had no in­for­ma­tion.

The fam­ily only heard through the Viet­namese For­eign Min­istry that he was alive un­til af­ter the Viet­nam War ended in 1975, and he could not come to visit be­fore he died in 1993, Tuong said.

Ak­i­hito said he was glad to see the rel­a­tives of for­mer Ja­panese sol­diers.

“I’m glad to know that you still have a spe­cial feel­ing... to­ward Ja­pan,” he said

“I hope the bi­lat­eral re­la­tions will con­tinue to de­velop.”

Ak­i­hito will tour the an­cient cap­i­tal of Hue and leave for Thai­land on Sun­day to pay his last re­spects to the late King Bhu­mi­bol Adulyadej, and meet with new King Maha Va­ji­ra­longkorn be­fore re­turn­ing home.

EPA PIC

Nguyen Thi Xuan (right), 92, who was mar­ried to a for­mer Ja­panese soldier, bow­ing to Em­peror Ak­i­hito (left) and Em­press Michiko (sec­ond from left) as they met fam­ily mem­bers of Ja­panese vet­er­ans liv­ing in Viet­nam in Hanoi, yes­ter­day.

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