Imperial Palace: When Sheikh Zayed met Japan's Emperor Akihito

The UAE leader flew out to Tokyo in May 1990

TOKYO, JAPAN - MAY 13: (CHINA OUT, SOUTH KOREA OUT) United Arab Emirates President Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan and Emperor Akihito talk during their meeting at the Imperial Palace on May 13, 1990 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images)
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Last week, Japan's Emperor Akihito, 85, made history when he abdicated his throne and was succeeded by his 59-year-old son, Crown Prince Naruhito.

He became the country's first monarch to abdicate in more than 200 years, handing over the Chrysanthemum Throne on April 30, and thus ushering in a new imperial era.

The popular Akihito stunned Japan when he announced in 2016 that he wanted to resign from his post, citing his age and health problems – he has been treated for prostate cancer and also undergone heart surgery.

It was in January 1989 when Akihito first ascended the throne. The following year, on May 13, 1990, he met with Sheikh Zayed, the Founding Father, as pictured here. The UAE leader flew out to Tokyo, to meet the emperor at the Imperial Palace. It marked a milestone in relations between the two nations, which continue to strengthen to this day.

The UAE first opened its embassy in Japan in December 1973. Shortly after, in April 1974, Japan opened its first embassy in the UAE.

Five years after this photo was taken, Emperor Naruhito came to the UAE on an official visit with his wife, then Princess Masako. A devastating earthquake in Japan had killed more than 6,000 people, and Naruhito was reported as saying how difficult it was to leave his country in such troubling times, but that deepening Middle East ties were also important.