Japanese emperor departs for visit to Vietnam and Thailand

The emperor and empress of Japan have left Tokyo for a one-week trip to Vietnam and Thailand.

Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko departed Tuesday morning from Haneda Airport. Their visit to Vietnam comes at a time of growing ties between the two countries. Many Japanese companies have built factories in Vietnam, and Vietnamese are among the largest groups of foreign students in Japan.

Akihito and Michiko will meet with surviving widows and children of Japanese soldiers who stayed in Vietnam after World War II but had to leave after the communists took control of the north in 1954.

In Bangkok, they will pay respects to former King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who died in October. Akihito said that he and Michiko enjoyed a close friendship with Bhumibol for more than 50 years.