The Emperor used the words “deep remorse” during his address at a national memorial service held Thursday in Tokyo to mark the 74th anniversary of the end of World War II.
The Emperor, who ascended to the throne on May 1, and the Empress attended the ceremony held by the government at the Nippon Budokan hall in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo, the first of its kind in the Reiwa era. About 6,500 people, including bereaved relatives, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and representatives of various fields, were present to honor the about 3.1 million Japanese people who died in the war.
Among those registered to attend, 53 representatives of families of the war victims from Miyazaki Prefecture were unable to attend the ceremony because their flight was canceled due to Typhoon No. 10.
Participants observed a minute of silent prayer as the clock struck noon. Afterward the Emperor gave an address, saying, “Together with all of our people, I now pay my heartfelt tribute to all those who lost their lives in the war, both on the battlefields and elsewhere, and pray for world peace and for the continuing development of our country.”
He used the phrase “deep remorse” in his speech, based on the essence of the Emperor Emeritus’ past remarks.
The Emperor Emeritus incorporated this expression in his speech every year after he first used it in 2015 on the 70th anniversary of the war’s end, while he was still Emperor.
Abe said in his address: “The horror of war must never be repeated. This pledge has been and will remain unchanged in the eras of Showa, Heisei and Reiwa as well. Here I pledge to open up the future of Japan for the generation alive at present and tomorrow in the nation.”
Generational shifts among the families of the war victims attending the annual memorial service have been progressing.
Among 5,391 registered attendees this year, there were five wives of war victims, compared to 3,269 at the 1989 ceremony in the first year of the Heisei era. The number of children at this year’s ceremony was 2,751, making up more than 50 percent of the attendees, while that of grandchildren was 451, according to the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry.
By age, attendees aged 80 and older accounted for 21.6 percent of the total, or 1,166 people, up 2.2 percentage points from the previous year. The number of attendees born after the war hit a record high of 1,650, making up 30.6 percent of the total. The oldest participant was 97 and the youngest 4.
According to the ministry, 2.3 million Japanese military personnel and employees lost their lives from the start of the Japan-China war in 1937 to the end of World War II in 1945, and during internment in Siberia. The number of civilian deaths in the same period was about 800,000, the ministry said.
The Emperor Emeritus and Empress Emerita, and the Emperor’s daughter Princess Aiko offered silent prayers at their homes, according to the Imperial Household Agency.