Japan's imperial couple arrives in PH for state visit

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Japan's Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko arrived in Manila Tuesday, January 26, for a 5-day state visit to the Philippines.

The Emperor and Empress arrived at the Villamor Air Base in Pasay City at around 2:30 pm aboard a Japan Air Force B747-400.

As soon as Akihito stepped out of the plane, he offered a slight bow. He was then welcomed on the tarmac by Philippine President Benigno Aquino and many of his cabinet secretaries.

Their state visit marks the 60th anniversary of the 2 countries’ diplomatic relations, earlier marred by the Second World War and the Japanese occupation of the country.

Their last visit to the country was in 1962, when they were still Crown Prince and Crown Princess.

"In the Philippines, many lives of Filipinos, Americans and Japanese were lost during the war," Akihito said at a ceremony before leaving Tokyo.

Akihito specifically noted the battle for the liberation of Manila in 1945, where an estimated 100,000 people were killed.

"We'd like to conduct our visit by always keeping this in mind," he said.

The Philippines is the latest stop in the soft-spoken emperor's pacifist pilgrimage, which has appeared to contradict his government's nationalist bent.

Akihito, 82, has made honoring Japanese and non-Japanese who died in the conflict a touchstone of his near 3-decade reign – known as Heisei, or "achieving peace" – and now in its twilight.

Their itinerary includes a visit to the national Heroes' Cemetery and a memorial for Japanese war dead. – With reports from Agence France-Presse / Rappler.com