See More on Facebook

Culture and society, Curiosity, Current affairs

Japanese emperor turns 85, glad for war-free reign

The emperor made his last speech before his pending abdication.


Written by

Updated: December 26, 2018

Japan’s Emperor Akihito, who turned 85 yesterday, has said he was heartened that the Heisei (achieving peace) era was coming to an end without his country having engaged in war.

“It gives me deep comfort that the Heisei era is coming to an end, free of war in Japan,” the pacifist monarch said in an emotional news conference held at the Imperial Palace ahead of his birthday.

Of the war that Japan waged in his father’s name, he added: “It is important not to forget that countless lives were lost in World War II and that the peace and prosperity of post-war Japan was built upon the numerous sacrifices and tireless efforts made by the Japanese people.”

He stressed that it was crucial to “pass on this history accurately to those born after the war”, in what was his last birthday news conference as monarch.

Emperor Akihito will step down next April 30, handing over the throne to his elder son, Crown Prince Naruhito, who will be 59 on Feb 23, in what will be the first abdication ceremony in 200 years.

A special one-time law was passed last year to allow the monarch to retire, after he implied in a rare address to the nation in August 2016 that he was concerned his old age would prevent him from fully performing his duties as “the symbol of the state and of the unity of the people” as stated in Japan’s post-war pacifist Constitution.

The imperial handover will usher in a new era, whose name is expected to be announced only weeks before the ascension ceremony.

The Heisei era began on Jan 8, 1989, the day after the death of Emperor Akihito’s father, Hirohito.

Emperor Akihito said he has spent his days on the throne pondering the role of the emperor.

He said that over the next four months, he intends “to carry out my duties in that capacity and shall continue to contemplate this question as I perform my day-to-day duties until the day of my abdication”.

The emperor is a venerated national symbol, as evident from the record 82,800 well-wishers who gathered at the Imperial Palace grounds in Tokyo yesterday.

The emperor has actively sought to bridge the distance between the monarchy and the commoner, and has frequently travelled to disaster-stricken areas to extend his condolences and offer comfort to the people affected.

Among his trips this year – made with his wife Empress Michiko, 84 – were to Hiroshima, Ehime and Okayama, which suffered from landslides and flooding after torrential rainfall in July, as well as to Hokkaido, which was struck by a magnitude 6.7 earthquake in September.

He said he was still at a loss for words to describe the deep sadness when he thinks about the many natural disasters that had struck in the Heisei era – notably the Kobe earthquake in 1995 and the Tohoku earthquake in 2011 that triggered a tsunami and a nuclear crisis.

“At the same time, I have been heartened to see that, in the face of such difficulties, the spirit of volunteering and other forms of cooperation are growing among the people and the awareness of disaster preparedness and capacity to respond to disasters are increasing,” he said.

With the country suffering from the strains of an ageing population – government data last Friday estimated the number of babies born this year at 921,000, the lowest since 1899 when comparable data was available – Japan recently passed a controversial immigration law to allow more foreign workers.

Said the monarch: “I hope the Japanese people will be able to warmly welcome as members of our society those who come to Japan to work here.”

Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko – a love story between a royal and a commoner that began on a tennis court – will mark their 60th marriage anniversary in April.

In a tribute to his wife, he said: “The Empress has always been at my side, understood my thoughts, and supported me in my position and official duties as I performed my duties as the Emperor.”

Turning to his successor, he said: “The Crown Prince, who will be the emperor in the new era, and Prince Akishino, who will be supporting the new emperor, have each accumulated various experiences and I think that, while carrying on the traditions of the imperial family, they will continue to walk their paths, keeping pace with the ever-changing society.”



Enjoyed this story? Share it.


About the Author: The Straits Times is Singapore's top-selling newspaper.

Eastern Briefings

All you need to know about Asia


Our Eastern Briefings Newsletter presents curated stories from 22 Asian newspapers from South, Southeast and Northeast Asia.

Sign up and stay updated with the latest news.



By providing us with your email address, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.

View Today's Newsletter Here

Culture and society, Curiosity, Current affairs

Japan Olympic chief denies corruption allegations

The president of the Japanese IOC says there is nothing to worry about. Tsunekazu Takeda, president of the Japanese Olympic Committee (JOC), on Tuesday rejected allegations of corruption related to Tokyo’s successful bid to host the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games, telling a Tokyo press conference, “There’s nothing to be suspicious of.” Takeda, 71, made the remark after French judicial authorities launched a full-scale investigation into suspicions that Takeda, who was then head of the bid committee, was involved in the corruption. The JOC told the media before the press conference that it would not hold a question-and-answer session, on the grounds that the French investigation was ongoing. Takeda read out a prepared statement instead. According to French media, the focus of prosecutors’ investigation is whether a total of about ¥230 million (


By The Japan News
January 16, 2019

Culture and society, Curiosity, Current affairs

China accuses Canada of double standard

Beijing slams Justin Trudeau’s criticism of drug smuggler’s death sentence. China on Tuesday expressed strong dissatisfaction at the Canadian prime minister’s criticism of a drug smuggler’s death sentence, urging the country to respect China’s judicial sovereignty and stop making irresponsible remarks. Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a daily news briefing that drug crimes are recognized worldwide as serious crimes and are extremely harmful to the society. She said all countries severely crack down on the issue and so does China. Remarks made by a “relevant Canadian person” lack the spirit of rule by law, she said, urging the Canadian side to correct the mistakes and stop making irresponsible remarks. Robert Lloyd Schellenberg, a Canadian national convicted of smuggling over 222 kilograms of methamphetamines, was sentenced to death on Monday at


By China Daily
January 16, 2019

Culture and society, Curiosity, Current affairs

Rohingya issue will not be solved easily

Bangladeshi foreign minister says the road to a solution will be long and paved with difficulty. The much-talked-about Rohingya issue will not be solved easily, Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen said on Monday. “I have directed to conduct a study on the Rohingyas which will try to find out the impacts of Rohingyas on our country’s social, economic and security system,” said the minister while talking to the journalists at his office in Dhaka. Urging the international community to step forward for a logical solution to the crisis, he said, “The international community has also responsibilities to solve the crisis. If Rohingya crisis is continued, interest of everybody including India and China will be hampered.” India and Russia are much positive over the Rohingya issue right now, the minister informed. About the resistance from several countries including China over the issue, he s


By Daily Star
January 15, 2019

Culture and society, Curiosity, Current affairs

Lion Air JT610 cockpit voice recorder found

Investigators hope that the discovery will shed new light on the deadly crash. The National Transportation Safety Committee announced on Monday that the cockpit voice recorder (CVR) from last year’s Lion Air crash had been found. First Fleet Navy Information Agency head Arba Agung told The Jakarta Post that an agency team was being sent to retrieve the CVR from the location where it was found. The team will first clear the mud around the CVR before it can retrieve it. The committee said in a statement that the CVR had stopped transmitting a location signal as the battery would have lasted only 73 days after the Oct. 29 crash. Coordinating Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Minister Luhut  Pandjaitan also confirmed the finding. “It’s very good progress. I think the information in the box might make things clear,” Luhut said. The Lion Air plane, which cr


By The Jakarta Post
January 15, 2019

Culture and society, Curiosity, Current affairs

Read the Reuters special report that landed their journalists in jail

Myanmar’s attempt to silence and discourage the press must be called out. After the rejection of the appeal by the two Reuters journalist, I call on Asia News Network readers to share and read the report that got them there. “On Sept. 2, Buddhist villagers and Myanmar troops killed 10 Rohingya men in Myanmar’s restive Rakhine state. Reuters uncovered the massacre and has pieced together how it unfolded. During the reporting of this article, two Reuters journalists were arrested by Myanmar police.” Read more: https://www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/myanmar-rakhine-events/


By Cod Satrusayang
January 14, 2019

Culture and society, Curiosity, Current affairs

Reuters journalists to remain in jail

Myanmar court rejects appeal against 7-yr sentences; ruling decried as another injustice. This Reuters report originally appeared in the Daily Star.  A Myanmar court yesterday rejected the appeal of two Reuters reporters sentenced to seven years in jail on charges of breaking the Official Secrets Act, saying the defence had not provided sufficient evidence to show they were innocent. Wa Lone, 32, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, were convicted by a lower court in September in a landmark case that has raised questions about Myanmar’s progress towards democracy and sparked an outcry from diplomats and human rights advocates. “It was a suitable punishment,” said High Court Judge Aung Naing, referring to the seven-year prison term meted out by the lower court. The defence has the option of making a further appeal to the country’s supreme co


By Daily Star
January 14, 2019