TOKYO Ė Japanís Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko left for Vietnam and Thailand, their first foreign visit after the monarch had announced his desire to abdicate in August.
In Vietnam, Akihito is expected to meet Vietnamese women who married Japanese soldiers during Japanís invasion of Vietnam in 1940, which ended with Japanís surrender in 1945 marking the end of World War II.
ďIt is our hope that our visit to Vietnam will contribute to the further development of the mutual understanding and friendly relations between our two countries,Ē Akihito said at the airport before leaving for Hanoi.
Currently, Japan is Vietnamís biggest foreign benefactor and one of its main trading partners.
During their six-day visit, the royal couple will also visit Bangkok to pay their respects to the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who died in October and with whom the royal family had maintained friendly relations for more than 50 years.
Akihitoís last visit abroad was to Philippines in January 2016, months before his televised abdication message.
Meanwhile, the Japanese government is working on amending the current succession law to pave the way for Akihitoís abdication since Japanís Imperial Household Law, enacted in 1947, only allows for posthumous succession.
Akihitoís health has been failing since he underwent a surgery for prostate cancer in 2003 and a bypass surgery in 2012.