Emperor Akihito released his “New Year Thoughts” on Thursday, issuing a call to learn from history in the year that marks the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II.
“I think it is most important for us to take this opportunity to study and learn from the history of this war, starting with the Manchurian Incident of 1931, as we consider the future direction of our country,” the 81-year-old Emperor said in the statement released via the Imperial Household Agency.
“This year marks the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, which cost many people their lives. Those who died on the battlefields, those who died in the atomic bombings in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, those who died in the air raids on Tokyo and other cities — so many people lost their lives in this war,” he said.
The Emperor and Empress Michiko plan to visit Palau in early April to console the souls of the war dead. The couple visited Saipan for the same purpose in June 2005 on the 60th anniversary of the war’s end.
The Emperor also mentioned the heavy snow, torrential rain and the eruption of Mount Ontake in 2014.
“My thoughts go out to those who lost their loved ones and their homes in those disasters,” he said.
As for the ongoing 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster, he said: “It pains me to think that there are still so many people who cannot return to the places they used to live because of radioactive contamination and so many who face the prospect of a cold, harsh winter in temporary housing.”
The couple plan to attend a ceremony in Kobe on Jan. 17 to mark the 20th anniversary of the Great Hanshin Earthquake and a ceremony for the 2011 disasters on March 11.
The Emperor and Empress received New Year’s greetings at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo on Thursday from the rest of the Imperial family, lawmakers and the ambassadors of around 120 countries.
“As a new year begins, I wish for the prosperity of the nation and the happiness of its people,” the Emperor said.
Among those offering greetings were Crown Prince Naruhito and Crown Princess Masako, Prince Akishino and Princess Kiko, whose daughter Princess Kako joined the greeting ceremony for the first time after turning 20 last month.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, his Cabinet ministers, the heads of the Diet’s two chambers and the chief justice of the Supreme Court were among officials who extended congratulations to the Emperor and Empress.