It is a great pleasure for the Empress and myself to be visiting Viet Nam for the first time at the kind invitation of Your Excellency President Tran Dai Quang. I would like to express our profound gratitude to Your Excellency for hosting this banquet for us this evening, and for your most gracious words of welcome.
I would also like to take this opportunity to tell you how grateful we are for the kindness that the people of Viet Nam have extended to our children, the Crown Prince and Prince and Princess Akishino, during their visits to your country in the past.
Japan has been honoured in recent years by visits from presidents and other leaders of Viet Nam, and on each of those occasions, the Empress and I were extended a kind invitation to visit your country. It is deeply moving for us, therefore, that we are finally here in Viet Nam.
Our two countries have enjoyed various exchanges since ancient times. Historical records show that in the 8th century, when the ceremony to celebrate the completion of the Great Buddha of Todai-ji temple was held in Nara, then the capital of Japan, Phat Triet, or Buttetsu, a monk from Champa in what is now central Viet Nam, dedicated a dance at the ceremony. The music which was introduced from Champa at the time continues to be performed in Japan today as part of gagaku, our imperial court music. During this trip, we will be visiting Hue, once part of Champa and the seat of the Nguyen dynasty. While in Hue, we look forward to hearing Nha nhac, which shares the same roots as the gagaku of Japan.
In the 16th and 17th centuries, many Japanese trading ships called on the port of Hoi An in central Viet Nam, which was flourishing as an international port at the time, and a Japan Town was formed there.
Exchanges between Viet Nam and Japan later ceased as a result of Japan’s policy of national seclusion. During the early part of the 20th century, however, some 200 Vietnamese students came to study in Japan under the Dong Du movement.
More than 40 years have passed since diplomatic relations were established between Japan and Viet Nam in 1973. During this period, exchanges between our two countries have continued to expand, and today approximately 180,000 Vietnamese citizens reside in Japan, including students and technical interns. Among them are about 500 individuals working and training at hospitals and welfare facilities in the hope of one day aiding the people of Japan as nurses and care workers. We are looking forward to our meeting tomorrow at the Temple of Literature with persons involved in exchanges between Japan and Viet Nam, including ones who once stayed and studied in Japan.
I am told that interest in learning the Japanese language is growing in Viet Nam, with the language now being taught even at some elementary schools. Meanwhile, many Japanese businesses are expressing heightened interest in conducting manufacturing and other operations in Viet Nam, and today approximately 15,000 Japanese people live in your country. I am very happy that many events are held throughout both countries to introduce our respective cultures and that the people of Viet Nam and the people of Japan are enjoying each other’s music, food, and other aspects of culture.
As the peoples of our two countries are developing closer ties and a stronger cultural affinity with each other, it is my sincere hope that our visit will contribute to further deepening our mutual understanding and strengthening the ties of friendly relations between the people of Viet Nam and the people of Japan.
I would now like to propose a toast to the good health of Your Excellency President Tran Dai Quang and Madam Nguyen Thi Hien, and to the happiness of the people of Viet Nam.