The Philippines has begun preparations for the first-ever visit of a reigning Emperor of Japan that is likely to be conducted early next year, Malacañang announced on Tuesday, October 13.

Palace Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr said Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko will be visiting the Philippines upon the invitation of President Benigno Aquino III.

“We are pleased to announce that the Philippines has started necessary coordination with Japan for a visit of Their Majesties, the Emperor and Empress of Japan, to the Philippines, possibly in early 2016. This visit responds to President Aquino’s invitation,” Coloma said.

“It will be the first time a reigning Emperor of Japan will be visiting the Philippines,” he added.

Coloma said the visit “returns the warm welcome Their Majesties extended to the President when he visited Tokyo earlier this year.”

The Emperor and Empress received Aquino and hosted a banquet in his honor when the Philippine leader went on a state visit to Japan in June.

During that visit, Aquino cited the Philippines’ ties with Japan as a “global example of cooperation” as the two countries “know what it is like to overcome the scars of the past and build ties of friendship that promote each other’s stability and prosperity.”

The two countries fought against each other during World War II, when the Philippines fell under Japanese occupation from 1942 to 1945. The past Emperors of Japan were held in high deity-like regard until their defeat in 1945. Aquino’s ancestors also saw involvement during the turbulent times of the war.

Now, Japan has since become the Philippines’ top trading partner and source of official development assistance. The navies of both countries held drills and exercises a few months ago, a first since the war.

(With report from Rappler PH)