On Tuesday, March 18, 2014, Her Majesty Queen Sonja of Norway arrived at the Nasjonalgalleriet in Oslo to open the special photo exhibition, Mette Tronvoll: Portretter av Dronning Sonja.
Photo courtesy of Kongehuset
On March 17, 2014, Their Imperial Majesties Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko of Japan accompanied by His Imperial Highness Crown Prince Naruhito of Japan welcomed the President of Vietnam, Mr. Truong Tan Sang, and First Lady Mai Thi Hanh, to the Imperial Palace in Tokyo. President Sang and his delegation are currently on a four-day state visit to Japan. The purpose of the visit is to strengthen economic and bilateral relations between Japan and Vietnam.
In the evening, Their Imperial Majesties hosted a gala banquet at the Imperial Palace in honor of President Sang’s important visit. Prior to yesterday evening’s banquet His Imperial Majesty gave a speech. Here is what he had to say:
“I wish to extend a heartfelt welcome to Your Excellency Mr. Truon Tan Sang, the President of the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam, and Madam Mai Thi Hanh, on the occasion of your State Visit to Japan. I am truly delighted to be able to spend this evening here with you.
Your Excellency the President visited Japan as a permanent member of the Secretariat of the Communist Party of Viet Nam Central Committee in June 2011, just three months after the Great East Japan Earthquake. I am told that at that time you visited the tsunami-stricken city of Asahi in Chiba Prefecture and called on victims living in temporary housing. I would like to take this opportunity to reaffirm my deep appreciation for Your Excellency’s thoughtfulness.
Last year marked the 40th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Japan and Viet Nam, and some 250 cultural exchange events of various kinds commemorating the Japan-Viet Nam Friendship Year were held in both countries. It was originally Your Excellency, on your previous visit to Japan, who proposed holding a Japan-Viet Nam Friendship Year. I am delighted that relations between our two countries are being promoted so actively.
Relations between Viet Nam and Japan go back to the 8th century. At the time Japan was sending diplomatic envoys from its capital in Nara to neighboring countries in search of foreign cultures and ideas. It was around this time that the Great Buddha of the Todai-ji temple was built. It is said that an Indian monk performed the eye-opening ceremony for the Great Buddha, and Phat Triet, or Buttetsu, a monk from the kingdom of Champa, in what is now Viet Nam, dedicated a dance at the ceremony. The music that was introduced from Champa at the time continues to be performed in Japan as part of the gagaku imperial court music, though it must have changed its form considerably in more than a thousand years.
In the 16th and 17th centuries, Japanese merchants are known to have traveled to Hoi An, a port town in Viet Nam, which was flourishing at the time as a hub of East-West trade, and formed a Japan Town there. This Japan Town disappeared over time as a result of Japan’s policy of national seclusion, which banned its citizens from traveling overseas. But in Hoi An, a bridge known as the Japanese Covered Bridge and Japanese tombs have been preserved under the care of local residents. I am also told that Japanese experts cooperated in the preservation of Hoi An Ancient Town, which is designated as a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage, and the restoration of traditional wooden buildings there. I am happy that relations between Viet Nam and Japan have continued to this day in this manner.
Turning our eyes to the present, four decades have passed since diplomatic relations were established in 1973, and exchanges and cooperation between Viet Nam and Japan have continued to make great progress. Today over 10,000 Japanese reside in Viet Nam, participating in various ways in its economic development, while over 60,000 Vietnamese live in Japan and are active in a wide range of fields. I am much heartened to see that the peoples of both countries are getting to know our respective cultures through these exchanges, and that our bond of friendship and cooperation is developing further.
The season of fresh budding greenery has arrived here in Tokyo. It is also the season of cherry blossoms when people get together to rejoice over the coming of spring. I hope that Your Excellency the President and Madam Hanh will enjoy this time of the year in Japan. I also sincerely hope that Your Excellency’s stay in Japan will be a fruitful one that serves to further deepen mutual understanding and the ties of friendship and cooperation between our two countries.
I would now like to propose a toast to the good health of Your Excellency the President and Madam Hanh, and to the happiness of the people of Viet Nam.”
Thereafter, Her Majesty arrived at the Het Laar elderly center in Tilburg to visit the project, Prins Heerlijk, according to the photo news agency, PPE.
Photo courtesy of RVD/HKH