TOKYO - Japanese Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko will visit the Philippines from Jan. 26 to 30 to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the normalization of bilateral ties, following Cabinet approval Friday.
It will be the first official visit by a Japanese emperor to the Southeast Asian country, where around 1.1 million Filipinos and other people were killed during World War II, and where about 518,000 Japanese soldiers and civilians also died.
The imperial couple are expected to pay tribute to them by visiting a monument to the Japanese war dead set up by the Japanese government and a cemetery for Philippine and other victims.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said in a statement, "I am convinced that their visit will help deepen the two countries' close friendship and goodwill."
Philippine President Benigno Aquino invited the imperial couple to visit his country when they met in June in Tokyo. During a banquet held to welcome Aquino at the Imperial Palace at that time, the emperor said Japanese people should keep remembering with deep remorse that a large number of Filipinos died during the war.
The emperor and empress have previously traveled to other major battlefields, visiting Saipan in 2005 and Palau in 2015 in commemoration of the 60th and 70th anniversaries of the end of war.
A detailed schedule of their upcoming trip is expected to be set in early January, the Imperial Household Agency said.
They are expected to fly from Tokyo's Haneda airport on a government plane on Jan. 26 and stay in Luzon, the Philippines' largest island. They are expected to be welcomed as state guests, with such events planned as a ceremony at the Malacanang Palace, a meeting with Aquino and a banquet.
The itinerary may include meetings with Japanese living in the Philippines and Japanese-Filipino people, an agency official said.
The envisioned visits to the monument to the Japanese war dead and the cemetery for Filipino victims reflects the imperial couple's strong desire to mourn for them, an agency official said.
As it takes a few hours from Manila by car to visit these locations, the idea of using a chopper of the Filipino military or the Japan Coast Guard has been explored, according to a government source.