The Daily Manila Shimbun


Imperial trip to open new page in Japan-Vietnam ties: Sugi

March 2, 2017

TOKYO- Prominent Japanese actor and singer Ryotaro Sugi, known for his welfare activities in Vietnam, hopes that the current visit to the country by Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko will open a new page in bilateral relations.

“Many people know little about relations between Japan and Vietnam,” Sugi, 72, said in a recent interview before the Imperial couple arrived in Hanoi on Tuesday for their first visit to Vietnam.

“I hope the visit will direct public attention to the history between the two nations and open a new page in Japan-Vietnam ties,” stressed Sugi, who was to accompany the Imperial couple for some of the scheduled events in Vietnam.

Since his first trip to Vietnam in 1989, Sugi has been involved in assistance to the southeast Asian country, including the establishment of a Japanese-language school in Hanoi. He has been appointed by Japan’s Foreign Ministry as a special ambassador for Japan-Vietnam relations.

“Vietnamese people work hard and are polite,” Sugi said. “I’ve continued my support also because it is a nation where a sense of moral obligation and sympathy are highly valued.”

Sugi has fostered many orphans in Vietnam, with the total number set to reach 152 in September.

In February 2009, Sugi served as a guide for Japan’s Crown Prince Naruhito at a Vietnamese school for the visually impaired during his official visit to the country.

After returning to Japan, he received words of gratitude for his service from Emperor Akihito. Since then, the Emperor has asked about the state of affairs in Vietnam every time he met Sugi.

During a tea party at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo last November, the Emperor shared a table with Sugi and asked him eagerly whether Vietnamese people can read or write Chinese characters. Sugi said he was impressed by the Emperor’s strong interest in Vietnam.

Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko plan to meet with Vietnamese families left behind by former Imperial Japanese servicemen who remained in Vietnam for some time after World War II ended in 1945.

“I think Their Majesties are ready to embrace the scars of the war that have remained unhealed for a long time,” Sugi said. “I believe their visit will give Vietnam an opportunity to raise the awareness of peace.” Jiji Press