Japanese Crown Prince Akishino and Crown Princess Kiko prepares to...

Japanese Crown Prince Akishino and Crown Princess Kiko prepares to leave Haneda airport in Tokyo Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2023. Akishino, the younger brother of Emperor Naruhito, is on his way to Vietnam on Wednesday to mark the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two countries. Credit: AP

HANOI, Vietnam — Japanese Crown Prince Akishino, the younger brother of Emperor Naruhito, arrived in Vietnam on Wednesday for a five-day visit marking the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two countries, as Tokyo pushes to deepen ties with Southeast Asia and other developing and emerging nations to tackle regional and global challenges.

Akishino, at a news conference last week, stressed the importance of deepening relations between Japan and Vietnam, noting their long history of cultural and economic exchanges dating back to the 16th century.

“Japan and Vietnam have a very close relationship,” Akishino said. “I hope we can contribute as part of an effort to promote friendly relations between the two countries.” He said it is particularly important for younger people to develop mutual understanding and respect for each other’s cultures through exchanges.

During the Sept. 20-25 trip, Akishino and his wife, Crown Princess Kiko, are visiting Hanoi, Vietnam's capital, where they will see the mausoleum of Vietnam's first president, Ho Chi Minh, and join anniversary events, including attending a new opera, before traveling to Hoi An in central Vietnam.

Akishino said he is especially looking forward to his first visit to Hoi An, an old port city that was home to a “Japantown” for Japanese traders in the first half of the 1600s. He will also visit the nearby My Son Sanctuary, an archeological site with spiritual origins in Indian Hinduism.

The trip is Akishino’s third to Vietnam after earlier visits in 1999 and 2012.

Akishino, who specializes in the study of chickens, noted there are wild breeds of chickens in various stages of domestication in Southeast Asia, including Vietnam, and their presence, along with giant catfish that live in the Mekong River, are part of the reason he is attracted to the region.

Japanese Crown Prince Akishino receives flowers from a Vietnamese official...

Japanese Crown Prince Akishino receives flowers from a Vietnamese official after landing in Hanoi, Vietnam Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2023. Akishino and Crown Princess Kiko are on a visit to Vietnam to mark the 50th anniversary of the diplomatic relation between the two countries. Credit: AP/An Van Dang

The couple’s visit comes three months after Emperor Naruhito and his wife Masako visited Indonesia, this year's chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, as ASEAN and Japan mark 50 years of friendship. Japan is Indonesia’s largest provider of official development assistance, according to Japan’s Foreign Ministry.

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