Prime Minister Naoto Kan pledged Monday on the 66th anniversary of the end of World War II that the nation would recover from the March 11 triple disaster, likening the hardship to postwar reconstruction.
“Our nation has stood up from the ashes of war and overcome many trials and tribulations with the efforts of each and every citizen,” Kan said at the Nippon Budokan Hall in Tokyo’s Chiyoda Ward, where the ceremony marking the historic day of Japan’s surrender was held.
“With this experience, we promise to boldly rebuild the disaster-stricken areas, as well as Japan,” Kan said, while also vowing to renew the nation’s pledge to never again engage in war.
The annual ceremony comes at a time when the nation struggles to recover in the aftermath of the massive earthquake and tsunami that devastated the Tohoku region and crippled nuclear reactors in Fukushima Prefecture, causing widespread panic and economic damage estimated to climb over ¥16 trillion.
It is also likely to be Kan’s last time to attend the ceremony as prime minister.
Kan is expected to step down soon after two bills he has set as a precondition for his exit, the bond-issuance bill and legislation to promote renewable energy, clear the Diet at month’s end.
The event at Nippon Budokan commemorates the approximately 3 million service members and civilians who died in the war, and was attended by roughly 6,100 people.
Following a minute of silence, Emperor Akihito took to the podium and delivered a speech expressing his heartfelt sorrow over those that died in war, and called for world peace and Japan’s further development.
Lower House Speaker Takahiro Yokomichi said that the sight of coastal cities wiped out from the March 11 disaster was reminiscent of the burned ruins from air raids during the war, as well as Hiroshima and Nagasaki after the atomic bombings.
“The sorrow of those who have lost their homes and had family washed away from the tsunami is no different from the sorrow wrought by the war,” he said, adding that it was important that everyone remember the past and learn from its mistakes.
Yokomichi also lamented the fact that Japan has again been forced to suffer from radiation fears despite experiencing and knowing firsthand its horror from past experiences.