Commemorating the 64th anniversary of the end of World War II, Prime Minister Taro Aso expressed deep remorse over the pain Japan inflicted on its neighbors and vowed never to engage in war again.
“Japan caused tremendous damage and suffering to the people of many countries, particularly to those of Asian nations,” Aso said Saturday in a speech at Nippon Budokan Hall in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo. “On behalf of the people of Japan, I hereby express my feelings of profound remorse and sincere mourning for all the victims of the war.”
Although Aso is known for being a hawk on foreign policy, he has avoided visiting Yasukuni Shrine, which is widely regarded as a symbol of Japan’s past militarism.
Aso has proposed the controversial shrine be stripped of its religious status and be turned into a state-run war memorial. But the unpopular leader has yet to take any steps in that direction after nearly a year in office, and with a tough Lower House general election looming, Aso and his ruling Liberal Democratic Party could soon find themselves out of power.
Instead, he went to the annual ceremony at Nippon Budokan Hall, which commemorates about 2.3 million service members and 800,000 civilians who died in the war.
“We will sincerely look back on the past without allowing the lessons of that horrible war to erode and will faultlessly hand them down to the next generation,” Aso said. “Japan renews its pledge not to engage in war and vows to actively work toward the establishment of lasting world peace.”
Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko also attended the ceremony, with the Emperor expressing his “profound sorrow for the people who lost precious lives in the past war and their bereaved families.”
“Looking back on history, I earnestly hope the horrors of war will not be repeated,” the Emperor said. “Together with the public, I pay a heartfelt tribute to those who lost their lives on the battlefield and fell in the ravages of war, and pray for world peace and further development of our country.”
Upper House President Satsuki Eda went one step further and called the past war “an act of invasion.”
“Through our acts of invasion and colonization, our country has inflicted much suffering and sorrow not only on the Japanese people in and out of the country but also those of Asia and other regions,” Eda said.
“Based on deep reflection of the past, it is our responsibility to reconfirm our strong resolution to never repeat such a tragic war and build a peaceful nation trusted by people throughout the world.”
The health ministry said 4,957 relatives of war dead were expected to attend the ceremony. But as more than 60 years have passed since the end of war, the number of living relatives is decreasing.
Out of the 4,957 who attended, 4,620 are 64 years old or older. The oldest was 101-year-old Shizue Ikehata, whose husband died in 1944 in the Bashi Channel between Taiwan and the Philippines.
The youngest relative was 3-year-old Kaio Miyagi, the great grandchild of Tokusei Miyagi, who died around the main island of Okinawa.