HANOI (AFP): Japan's Crown Prince Akishino and Crown Princess Kiko were welcomed on Thursday (Sept 21) in Hanoi by lines of flag-waving schoolchildren, as they began a visit marking the 50th anniversary of diplomatic ties between the two nations.
The royal couple laid wreaths at the mausoleum of late president Ho Chi Minh, before heading to the former home -- a traditional stilt house -- of the revolutionary leader and feeding fish in a pond outside.
Akishino -- the younger brother of Emperor Naruhito -- was last in Vietnam, which Japan once occupied, more than two decades ago.
The two nations have maintained close diplomatic and trade ties, with Japan considered one of Vietnam's most important economic partners.
Close to half a million Vietnamese people are living in Japan, according to Vietnamese state media, citing Japanese government figures.
The couple's five-day trip will see them tour the central city of Danang, as well as Quang Nam province, where Japanese business people came to trade in the 16th century.
They will also meet the families of former Japanese soldiers who stayed on after World War II to fight for Vietnamese independence from French colonisers.
Vietnam, then part of Indochina, was a French-administered possession of Japan for five years from 1940.
In June, Emperor Naruhito and his wife Masako visited Indonesia, this year's chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
Asean and Japan this year also mark 50 years of friendship.