Japan commemorated the 72nd anniversary of its surrender at the end of World War II with a state-sponsored ceremony in Tokyo, attended by relatives of the war dead.
Although aging relatives were conspicuously absent, more than 6,000 people filled Tokyo’s Nippon Budokan Hall to hear Prime Minister Shinzo Abe express remorse for the war.
While past prime ministers have mentioned Japanese military aggression prior to and during the war, Abe has not referred to it in the five annual speeches he has given on the anniversary of the Aug. 15, 1945, surrender.
On Tuesday Abe said, “We will contribute to world peace and prosperity by sincerely tackling various challenges, including the issue of poverty, which could become a hotbed of conflicts.”
A moment of silence at noon honored the 2.3 million Japanese military personnel and 800,000 civilians who died in the war.
Also in attendance Tuesday were Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko, in what could be their final participation in the annual memorial. The aging leaders could abdicate the throne in 2018.
“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. 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,” the emperor said.
The oldest relative of a war casualty in attendance was Harumi Serigano, 101, whose husband died in fighting on Okinawa in 1945. Only six widows attended the ceremony, down from 954 in 1998.
A recent survey by NHK shows that only 19 percent of Japanese citizens age 18 and 19 were aware that Aug. 15 marks the anniversary of the World War II surrender. The survey exemplifies the difficulty in passing down the story of Japan’s military history in the 1930s and 1940s, Japan Times noted Tuesday.
By Ed Adamczyk