Japan emperor, empress attend banquet hosted by Indian president

Japan's Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko attended a banquet Monday night hosted by Indian President Pranab Mukherjee at his official resident in New Delhi.

In an address, the emperor touched on the couple's visit to the country 53 years ago and meetings with people who led the country from its independence days. "We felt a high ambition for nation building with pacifism in line with (Mahatma) Gandhi's thought as its ideal, and that impression is still engraved in us today," he said.

The emperor noted the two countries' exchanges dating back to the arrival of Buddhism in Japan centuries ago, saying that the brush used by an Indian monk in an eighth century ceremony to consecrate a Buddha statue was inherited as a treasure in a national repository in Japan.

On Indian Parliament's honoring of the memory of Japan's atomic bomb victims in August every year, the emperor said, "On behalf of the nation and in sympathy with the bereaved kin of the victims in particular, I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude."

The emperor was clad in a suit and the empress was wearing a traditional Japanese costume. Around 90 people were seen making a toast and enjoying talks over Indian cuisine.

Ahead of the banquet, the Japanese couple met with President Mukherjee.

The emperor extended his gratitude for India having sent a team of rescuers to Japan in the wake of the March 2011 quake and tsunami disaster, according to the Imperial Household Agency.

Earlier in the day, the emperor and empress attended a welcoming ceremony on at Mukherjee's official residence in New Delhi.

After being greeted by Mukherjee and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the imperial couple met with Singh at Hyderabad House, where the Indian government holds banquets and meetings with foreign dignitaries.

In their meeting, Singh expressed his gratitude for Japan's cooperation on Indian infrastructure projects. The emperor said he is pleased to hear about Japan's contribution to India.

The emperor and empress also offered flowers at Raj Ghat, where Mahatma Gandhi was cremated following his assassination in 1948. They visited the memorial during their first official trip to the country in 1960 when they were the crown prince and princess.