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War widow goes to first ceremony

Kyodo News

Over the past 63 years, Yotsu Iimura had not joined the annual national memorial ceremony on Aug. 15 to commemorate the war dead.

But this year, the 94-year-old decided to come although she is in a wheelchair, becoming one of the oldest relatives of the war dead attending the ceremony, which is seeing fewer and fewer participants as the survivors pass away with the years.

“My heart is too full to talk. I’m really happy,” she said, entering Tokyo Budokan Hall.

This year, 4,579 surviving kin of deceased Japanese soldiers attended the Budokan ceremony. A decade ago, the number was 5,662.

Iimura had hesitated to attend because “many bereaved families had been attending the ceremony,” she said.

“But not much time is left for me, either. I feel lonely since fewer families are attending,” she said.

Iimura’s husband, Shoji, was killed in action on Luzon Island in the Philippines at age 31. He had been a refrigerator maker before being drafted in 1944. Iimura learned in 1947 that her husband was dead.

Bunce dies at 100

WASHINGTON (Kyodo) William Bunce, who helped disestablish Shinto as Japan’s state religion during the Allied Occupation, died of chronic pneumonia in Maryland on July 23, The Washington Post reported Thursday. He was 100.

Bunce served as chief of the Religious and Cultural Resources Division at the general headquarters of the Allied Forces, working to separate militarism and nationalism from Shinto to promote the demilitarization of Japan under orders from the Allied commander in chief, Gen. Douglas MacArthur, the paper said.

But Bunce allowed Shinto, stripped of its nationalism, to continue and believers to worship privately, it said.

A native of Ohio, Bunce earned a master’s degree in history from Ohio State University in 1933 and taught English at a Japanese junior college during the 1930s, according to the Washington Post.

After the Occupation, he became a diplomat and served at embassies in India and South Korea before retiring in 1971.