Japan's Emperor Akihito Gives his Last WWII Memorial Ceremony Speech

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Tokyo- (PanOrient News) Japan's Emperor Akihito was given a banzai shout-out during a ceremony honoring the war dead on Wednesday August 15, the final such ceremony of his reign. His remarks emphasized remorse over Japan’s wartime history.

With his head bowed reverently toward a memorial display, the symbol of the state delivered his annual message of peace that is expected almost religiously every August on the anniversary of Japan’s World War II memorial ceremony for the war dead.

“Reflecting on our past and bearing in mind the feelings of deep remorse, I earnestly hope that the ravages of war will never be repeated,” said the emperor, 84, who will abdicate next spring.

The event, held at a Tokyo martial arts hall called the Nippon Budokan, was attended by over 5,000 family members of the deceased and hundereds of top government officials. It was also broadcast live across the country.

Tetsuya Ikuta

“I am very grateful to the emperor for his dedication to the fallen to remembering and praying for them,” said Tetsuya Ikuta, the 81-year-old vice president of the Aichi Prefecture War-Bereaved Association. “I do not know what it will be like with the next emperor, but I truly hope thoughts for the fallen and peace will remain and be passed on to the next generation.”

“The fallen went to war saying it was for the sake of the emperor and for the sake of protecting their families,” he added, moved to tears as he recalled how his own mother had struggled after his father was killed in the Philippines. “I am sure that the emperor’s family has been filled with remorse . . . and they have been expressing those feelings.”

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe also spoke at the event, but unlike the emperor, refrained from directly expressing regret for any of Japan’s past actions. Echoing his own past speeches and conservative reputation, the prime minister avoided using the word “remorse” but instead pledged “not to repeat the tragedy of war.”

Meanwhile, outside the Nippon Budokan, an assorted crowd of activists with less nuanced messages handed out flyers and spoke in front of showy posters. They gathered on a stretch of sidewalk near the front gate of the Yasukuni shrine.

In keeping with what some interpret as the Japanese nationalist theme of the day, most of the activists shared a strong criticism of China. They included Taiwanese, Uyghurs, Falun Gong members and Japanese nationalists displaying their own history textbooks. Others harbored anger toward the U.S.

“The U.S. dropped atomic bombs on Japan and says it won the war,” said one activist. “But what they did was against humanity. And saying they won the war by committing such inhumane action is nonsense.”

The sidewalk scene of nationalists venting their anger at losing the war, and large parts of Asia with it, contrasted sharply with the carefully choreographed one inside the Budokan, where an orchestra played the funeral march from Beethoven’s Third Symphony as representatives from each prefecture laid yellow chrysanthemums on an altar.

The participants, mostly seniors, were brought to the event in busloads and seated together in predetermined areas. A few brought children, bridging the gap between past and future. The youngest participant, at 2 years old, differed in age by exactly one century from the oldest, the 102-year-old wife of a man killed in the war.

“It was a great opportunity for me to attend today’s event,” said one schoolgirl in the audience. “Although I never experienced a war, I could feel the feelings of those who went through the war very closely by attending the event.”

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