Japan emperor expresses sympathy to families left by WW2 soldiers
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.
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.