Imperial Couple Take 1st Step on Journey to Deepen Ties Overseas

The Emperor and Empress have completed a goodwill visit to Indonesia. It can be said that the visit was a future-oriented exchange between Japan and Indonesia during which memories of World War II were passed down.

It was the Imperial couple’s first goodwill overseas trip since the Emperor’s enthronement. During the seven-day itinerary, the couple had a meeting with Indonesian President Joko Widodo and his wife, and the Emperor visited a temple, among other places.

The couple’s last goodwill overseas trip was in 2002, 21 years ago.

Indonesia, a major power in Southeast Asia with a rapidly growing economy, has had a cooperative relationship with Japan for years. The Emperor Emeritus and Empress Emerita visited the country in 1991 on their first official overseas trip of the Heisei era (1989-2019).

Following the massive earthquake off Indonesia’s Sumatra Island in 2004 and the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, the two countries sent rescue teams and relief supplies to each other. The significance of such historical ties between the two countries is probably the reason why Indonesia was chosen as the destination of the Imperial couple’s recent visit

The former Japanese military placed Indonesia, then a Dutch territory, under its control for 3½ years until the end of World War II. After the war, some Japanese soldiers remained in the country and joined Indonesians in their fight for independence against the Netherlands.

During their recent trip, the Emperor and Empress visited a cemetery where about 10,000 Indonesians and 28 former Japanese soldiers are buried. The Japanese soldiers who survived the conflicts experienced difficulties. The Emperor met with the descendants of former Japanese soldiers and expressed understanding of the situation they faced, saying, “The people of the first generation must have had a tough time.”

The Emperor Emeritus, who was a child during World War II, conveyed his desire for peace as Emperor of the Heisei era during his trips to pay respects to war dead in various countries. The message that the current Emperor, who was born after the war, has inherited the same wish must have been conveyed to local people in Indonesia.

The Emperor also met with local university students, among others. A large number of people in Indonesia are learning Japanese, and Japanese animation is reportedly booming in the country. Many Indonesians have come to Japan and are playing active roles in the medical and welfare sectors.

The Emperor must harbor hopes to deepen not only ties in the political and economic fields but also the cultural bonds between the two countries through exchanges with the younger generation.

For the Empress, who is recovering from a health condition, this trip was her first to a foreign country in a long time, excluding royal coronations and a funeral. Formerly a diplomat, the Empress had been expected to play a role in promoting the international goodwill of the Imperial family, but the environment has not been conducive to such activities until now

During the latest visit, in addition to meeting with the president’s wife, the Empress watched a performance of a traditional Indonesian stringed instrument and experienced a traditional type of textile dyeing. The Imperial family of the Reiwa era (2019-) is striving to support friendship and goodwill between Japan and other countries. That support is certain to continue.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 27, 2023)